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Drought and Fracking: How Much Water Does It Use?

Published On: Jan 21 2014 12:52:09 AM CST   Updated On: Jan 21 2014 11:47:18 AM CST

Fracking On the Central Coast

MONTEREY, Calif. -

As the threat to California's water supply wages on the controversial oil drilling practice known as fracking is under fire again.  This time it's not over pollution, earthquakes or endangered species, it's about the use of our precious water. 

Critics said the practice of fracking uses way too much water.  But we’re finding out that message may not be entirely true.  We went looking for some answers to the argument that fracking uses a ton of water.  To some it's a detrimental to use any water for oil drilling, while some say you need to put it into perspective. 

"We're going to see this tremendous new demand for water and much of that demand is going to come in places where there's really a serious shortage of water already," said Patrick Sullivan with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Center for Biological Diversity said the amount of water oil companies will use to frack in the future is unclear.  Clean Water Action (CWA) agrees, saying fracking poses a serious threat to California's water supply and water quality.  CWA calls fracking a water intensive process that uses hundreds to millions of gallons of water.

"I don't think anyone in the state truly knows how much water the oil industry will use for fracking.  But we know that if they go forward with plans to frack thousands and thousands of wells in the state, they're going to use a lot of water," Sullivan said.

But Energy In Depth, an oil industry created think tank, said otherwise after a recent report found California's fracking operations are far from water intensive.  EID said fracking one average oil well takes less than a third of the average amount of water it takes to irrigate a California golf course everyday. 

Another major concern is water quality.  Last month, the Associated Press confirmed more than 100 water contamination cases because of fracking in other parts of the country.  But Energy In Depth said fracking is safe and the process doesn't cause an unsafe levels of contamination.

We tried to reach a few oil companies who are looking to frack here locally to find out exactly how much water they use but haven't heard back yet.