April 2, 2015 / 2:07 AM / 5 years ago

California activists want water restrictions to include oil industry

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California should require oil producers to cut their water usage as part of the administration’s efforts to conserve water in the drought-ravaged state, environmentalists said on Wednesday.

A pump jack is seen at sunrise near Bakersfield, California October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Governor Jerry Brown ordered the first statewide mandatory water restrictions on Wednesday, directing cities and communities to cut their consumption by 25 percent. But the order does not require oil producers to cut their usage nor does it place a temporary halt on the water intensive practice of hydraulic fracturing.

California’s oil and gas industry uses more than 2 million gallons of fresh water a day to produce oil through well stimulation practices including fracking, acidizing and steam injection, according to estimates by environmentalists. The state is expected to release official numbers on the industry’s water consumption in the coming days.

“Governor Brown is forcing ordinary Californians to shoulder the burden of the drought by cutting their personal water use while giving the oil industry a continuing license to break the law and poison our water,” said Zack Malitz of environmental group Credo.

“Fracking and toxic injection wells may not be the largest uses of water in California, but they are undoubtedly some of the stupidest,” he said.

The industry has received scrutiny for how it disposes of undrinkable water produced during oil drilling. Last month the state ordered the operators of 12 wells to halt injections of the water out of fear that it could contaminate fresh drinking water supplies.

Oil industry officials on Wednesday said that oil drilling in the state produces more water than oil, which is frequently put to good use.

“In many instances, that water is provided to agriculture to grow crops or is recycled to produce additional energy supplies,” said Tupper Hull of the Western State Petroleum Association.

Two oil companies, Chevron Corp and the California Resources Corporation, provide 68 million barrels of water a year to agriculture in Kern County, Hull said.

“That’s more than 8,700 acre feet of water, 30 times more than all of the water used in hydraulic fracture by all oil companies per year,” he said.

In an interview with the PBS Newshour on Wednesday, Brown indicated that curbing oil industry water use would not help a state so dependent on petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel.

“If we don’t take it out of our ground, we’ll take it out of someone else’s,” Brown said.

Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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