Drought, Earthquakes, and Corporations- Oh My!

Drought, Earthquakes, and Corporations- Oh My!

by Jessica Olson

Climate Change is Strictly Business

In the wake of the 6.0 magnitude earthquake that struck California’s wine country on August 24th, 2014 (the largest since the 1989 Loma Prieta quake with a magnitude of 6.9) it’s time for this drought-ridden state to wake up.

 

[Image 1: http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/07/31/californias-drought-just-got-absolutely-terrifying]

 

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some of my fondest memories are of exploring the river near my house and visiting my Aunt who lives up near Lake Tahoe and playing in the refreshingly cold water. With the current drought, the rivers and lakes of my childhood are nothing more than glorified puddles. I find myself wondering how this could happen.

As climate change has pushed the golden state to the brink of a full on water crisis, private corporations operating within the state have not been subject to lessening their water consumption. Just the other day, news broke that residents in the San Joaquin Valley have no tap water running from their faucets due to their wells coming up dry.

According to local news (http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2014/08/23/california-drought-leaves-hundreds-of-central-valley-homes-with-no-tap-water-drinking-bottled-rations-porterville-tulare-county/), “The situation has become so dire that the Tulare County Office of Emergency Services had 12-gallon-per person rations of bottled water delivered on Friday in the community of East Porterville, where at least 182 of the 1,400 households reported having no or not enough water… the supplies cost the county $30,000 and were designed to last about three weeks, but are only a temporary fix.” So- let me get this straight. Bottled water companies in California(http://www.cnbc.com/id/101892496#.) are aiding in emptying the aquifers at an undisclosed rate(http://www.salon.com/2014/07/14/nestle_is_bottling_water_straight_from_the_heart_of_californias_drought/), contributing to the drought, AND making a profit off of it?

[Image 2“CA drought worsening from 2010 to 2014; over 80% of the state is now in “Exceptional Drought” http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/MapsAndData/WeeklyComparison.aspx]

 

What could be worse than that?

Unfortunately, I have an answer to that rhetorical question: the drought is is putting pressure on our already active fault lines. According to the US Geological Survey (USGS) (http://www.capradio.org/articles/2013/11/22/usgs-study-1200-square-miles-of-central-valley-land-is-sinking/)  and recent research published in the journal Nature (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v509/n7501/full/nature13275.html), the aquifers have become so empty that the surface has begun to cave in. As a result, the subsidence problem of buckling land is putting pressure on our fault lines which could result in some stronger quakes (http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/08/04/california-drought-may-cause-earthquakes) in our future.

If this wasn’t enough, the state is using what little water is leftover from daily use by California residents and sold for profit by corporations such as Nestle for a rapidly expanding natural gas industry. As such, the risks of more earthquakes and furthering the drought in California have entered a positive feedback loop. The more companies use the process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the less water there is. It requires over 4.4 million gallons of water to frack a drilling pad (http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2013/03/12/how-much-water-it-takes-to-frack-a-well/).

[Image 3: http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2013/03/12/how-much-water-it-takes-to-frack-a-well/]

 

Not only does fracking take more than its fair share of water, but the process contaminates the groundwater adjacent to the pads and the water sent down in the process becomes non-reusable. In a state where there isn’t even enough water for thirsty people, we should be seeking alternatives to water-intensive extraction projects. And let’s not forget about the positive feedback loop going on here. Hydraulic fracturing has been found to be possibly more detrimental to climate health than coal(http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2011/04/fracking-leaks-may-make-gas-dirtier-coal)! And let’s not forget that fracking has also been found to cause earthquakes(http://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/tag/earthquake/) even in places that historically don’t feel them(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/14/fracking-earthquake_n_5585892.html).

[Image 4: “All active fracking pads in the state” http://maps.fractracker.org/latest/?appid=57ecf5feeba8428f80a749ec50921ad6]

 

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time that companies are held as accountable as private citizens. If corporations are people, shouldn’t they be fined for violating drought restrictions like everyone else?

What You Can Do:

  1. Get informed
  2. Actively conserve water
  3. Join the fight!

To get more involved with activists against fracking in your area, look no further than this post from March. http://www.sustainabilitycoalition.org/cssc-students-recap-dont-frack-california/

For more information about removing bottled water from your campus, you can read more here. http://www.sustainabilitycoalition.org/battling-the-bottle-students-and-industry-face-off-over-water/

To learn more about the drought and its impact on California you can read more here. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/wests-historic-drought-stokes-fears-of-water-crisis/2014/08/17/d5c84934-240c-11e4-958c-268a320a60ce_story.html

Think I forgot about California’s Agribusinesses role in all of this? I didn’t! Read more here (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-11/california-drought-transforms-global-food-market.html?utm_content=buffereacf9&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer)

Still don’t think the drought is an issue? Check out these bad boys(http://imgur.com/a/IgoUq).

Posted in California Student Sustainability Coalition Magazine, Featured News.