Dry California

In Dry California, Thirsty Oil and Big-Ag Industries Exempt from Water Regulations

As California Governor Jerry Brown this week instituted the state’s first-ever mandatory restrictions on water usage to combat its historic four-year drought, environmental activists are pointing out two glaring exemptions from the order: the fossil fuel and agriculture industries.

Brown’s mandate, announced Wednesday, directs cities and communities to cut down their water consumption by 25 percent, but does not make any requirements of the state’s numerous oil companies, including those which practice the water-heavy fracking method of extraction, nor of large-scale farming operations.

“Both of them use tremendous amounts of water,” Earthjustice attorney Trent Orr told Common Dreams.

Brown is “putting restrictions on everyone except oil and agriculture… it seems like the powerful industries have gotten a pass,” Orr continued.

Adam Scow, California director of Food & Water Watch, also said Wednesday, “It is disappointing that Governor Brown’s executive order to reduce California water use does not address the state’s most egregious corporate water abuses. In the midst of a severe drought, the Governor continues to allow corporate farms and oil interests to deplete and pollute our precious groundwater resources that are crucial for saving water.”

California’s oil and gas industry uses more than 2 million gallons of fresh water a day to produce oil through fracking, acidizing, and steam injections, according to environmental estimates. In 2014, California oil producers used up nearly 70 million gallons of water on fracking alone, state officials told Reuters on Thursday.

While that number is lower than projected, fracking and toxic injection wells must not be given “a continuing license to break the law and poison our water,” Zack Malitz, an organizer with environmental group Credo, told Reuters.

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

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