Thursday, October 23, 2014

Visit, Bookmark, Read

Here is an excellent, well-written and intelligent El Paso blog which you should visit, bookmark and read: elpasospeak.

Add it to your favorites.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"New Data Out Of Pennsylvania Links Drilling To Water Contamination"

Absolutely, positively read New Data Out Of Pennsylvania Links Drilling To Water Contamination by Sara Jerome at Water Online.

One More Reason to Support Our Public Service Board/El Paso Water Utilities

John Balliew receivng the AMWA Sustainable Water Utility Management Award.
The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, an organization of the largest publicly-owned drinking water suppliers in the United States, honored our El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU) with its Sustainable Water Utility Management Award. This is one more reason to keep the PSB/EPWU independent and not make it just one more department of the City of El Paso. 

By the way, be sure to read the October 20, 2014 post at Refuse the Juice. Quoting directly and emphasizing:

"The PSB is one of the few things in El Paso - government wise - that works."

And again:  

"Should El Paso be taking steps to protect it's most precious asset (water) and the preserver of that asset (PSB/EPWU)?"  

Here's the EPWU press release about the award:

El Paso Water Utilities Receives National Award
for Sustainable Water Management

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) honored El Paso Water Utilities with The Sustainable Water Utility Management Award at its 2014 Executive Management Conference on Monday in Newport Beach, Calif.
The Sustainable Water Utility Management Award, presented for the first time this year, recognizes water utilities that have made a commitment to management that achieves a balance of innovative and successful efforts in areas of economic, social and environmental endeavors.
“AMWA awards recognize the serious commitment and significant progress these award-winning drinking water agencies are making toward long-term viability through innovative management practices, executive leadership and employee engagement,” said AMWA President Chuck M. Murray, General Manager of Fairfax Water. “Sustainable communities cannot exist without sustainable water systems, and these award winners are invaluable assets to their communities and their customers.”
El Paso Water Utilities, one of nine utilities to receive the national award, was recognized for its proactive water management strategy focused on policy, planning and technology. Sustainability for EPWU means protecting public health by producing clean, safe water from renewable resources while meeting daily standards.
“Our unique geographical location and climate requires us to be proactive,” states John Balliew, EPWU President/CEO. “We work hand-in-hand with our customers and stakeholders to aggressively implement our water resources management plan.”
EPWU was commended on receiving high marks in all areas, according to national benchmarking surveys conducted by AMWA. AMWA also took special note that El Paso’s average residential water bills are among the lowest in the Southwest, largely due to gains in operational efficiency and a commitment to continuous process improvement principles.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Doing the Math: Where Will Torchlight Get All of Its Water?

Elpasonaturally has been following the recent acquisition of 172,000 acres on the Diablo Plateau by Torchlight Energy and their plans to frack as many as 2500 wells. See previous posts HERE and HERE.

Based on industry reports, the estimate for water used in one fracking operation is as low as 70,000 barrels or as high as 200,000 gallons. Assuming that a barrel equals 42 gallons, and noting Torchlight Energy's estimate that they may drill as many as 2500 wells on the Diablo Plateau southwest of Cornudas, Texas (just a hop from El Paso), then follow the math and weep and/or scream:

At the low end it takes about 2,940,000 gallons (70,000 barrels X 42 gallons/barrel) of water to "frack" one well. If you have 2500 wells as Torchlight Energy estimates may be the maximum number to drill on the Diablo Plateau southwest of Cornudas, then you need 7.35 billion gallons of water. Fracking can use up to 200,000 gallons per well or 8,400,000 gallons of water. Again, if 2500 wells, then the total usage is 21 billion gallons of water.  21 billion gallons equals 60% of all the water EPWU sold in 2013. (In 2013 EPWU billed its retail and wholesale customers for 35.1 billion gallons of water.) At the low end it is a third of that but still a whole lot of water.

Where will Torchlight get all of that water? 

I'm not saying that they will get it from El Paso. However, one wonders how much water there is below Dell City and the Diablo Plateau.

Of course, some of the water used in fracking is recycled - i.e., water that flows back from an operation along with all the toxic compounds or "produced" - water which results when some water which remains underground becomes more like the water naturally found in the shale. Unfortunately, the amount of such water is a small percentage of what is used. "In fact, according to a 2012 study by the Texas Water Development Board, only 2% of water in the Permian Basin and 5% of water in the Barnett Shale was recycled." This according to Power Shift

What is more troubling is figuring out where all this water can go without contaminating drinking water. It can be re-injected into the geologic formations which often results in earthquakes and/or contaminates the aquifer. It can be passed on to local water treatment plants which may be overwhelmed and may not be able to filter out all of the toxic chemicals and thus further pass those obnoxious compounds down the river for all of its agricultural consumers to use on crops. Or this unsustainable "recycled" water is spilled on the ground which is too frequently the case. (Read the information in a National Geographic blog. Also see from the NY Times: Waste Water Recycling No Cure-All in Gas Process.

Bottom line: Torchlight Energy's proposed drilling on 172,000 acres just east of El Paso should frighten us all whether they drill 2500 wells eventually or much fewer. There ought to be an outcry but don't expect any of the El Paso media to raise an alarm. In fact, expect stories about how good the fracking will be for the El Paso economy. Sorry - but that's not only wrong but immoral.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Take Military Land Use Study Survey

Currently there is a Joint Land Use Study being conducted by the military. They are seeking public comment regarding the impact of local military facilities and communities. They recently gave a presentation to interested persons in El Paso. However, that meeting was not well publicized.

Richard Teschner, the President of the Friends of the Rio Bosque, sent out the following email this morning. It well summarizes the purpose of the Land Use Study:

"The Southern New Mexico/El Paso, Texas Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) is a cooperative process among city, county and state governments, state and federal agencies, Fort Bliss, Holloman Air Force Base, White Sands Missile Range, and the public in general. The JLUS seeks to create a long-term planning partnership that protects quality of life in local communities and enhances the military missions of the three installations. The study emphasizes ways to promote coordination, understand the economic impact of the installations, and preserve critical civilian and Department of Defense capabilities. The JLUS looks at various compatibility factors including aviation and range noise, airspace, safety, renewable energy and frequency spectrum management.

"The Draft JLUS report contains strategies to promote compatibility between civilian growth, development decisions and military missions. The report is available at . When you click on that link you will also find a survey, which I encourage you to take. Comments/Survey completions are welcome through November 6, 2014."

Go to the JLUS site where you will find a link to the survey. There is a place where you can add a comment. I mentioned my concern that military exercises are destroying desert ecosystems. I hope others will mention the same issue.

You can see the slide show from the JLUS public meeting HERE.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Get Ready

Imagine flying over the Diablo Plateau just past the Huecos from El Paso and seeing this. Get ready.

Fracking is known for its contamination of wells and groundwater. For instance, Californians have recently learned that frackers are dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into their groundwater. No wonder that people in Denton, Texas are fighting fracking in their community. Yet the damage to underground resources and subsequent health dangers to those above is not the only havoc reeked by the fracking industry. Social costs and damage to the surface ecosystems need to be weighed as well.

Food and Water Watch recently published a study on the social costs of fracking. (There are good summaries HERE and HERE.) Environment America has also issued a study. The social costs include impact on health, infrastructure, increased crime and sexual disease, negative impact on property values, on and on. 

But the environmental impact is not just deep underground. It is what happens to the surface: chemical spills, heavy trucks and other machinery destroying surface soil and cutting new roads from fracking pad to fracking pad. Indeed it is this surface damage that may be the highest cost of fracking especially in the desert.

The desert surface is so valuable and so vulnerable. The soil teems with life and that life is essential for the plants and animals of the region. Lichens, mosses, liverworts, cyanobacteria all bind the surface and aid in water retention critical to the desert ecosystem. "The survival, growth, and reproduction of living things depends considerably on soil characteristics," according to Sonoran Desert expert, Joseph R. McAuliffe.  

Science Daily quotes American Society of Agronomy and Soil Science Society of America Member Mandy Williams: "These crusts kind of act like a living mulch across a desert, by protecting the surface from erosion. Once you disturb the soil surface, you're more likely to lose what little resources are available there."

[See good pictures of the life in the desert crusts HERE.] 

Thus, it is disheartening to learn that Torchlight Energy has acquired 172,000 acres on the Diablo Plateau southwest of Cornudas, Texas which is just a hop from El Paso. Consider the damage to the ecosystem of that plateau. Consider the social costs to Dell City and, yes, to El Paso. Get ready.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Register NOW for Sun Country Landscaping Conference

Click image to enlarge.
County Extension Agent and West Texas Urban Forestry Council member,Denise Rodriguez, reminds us that: 

"Early registration [for the Sun Country Landscaping Conference] closes on October 31st. 

"John White will join me on the Good to Grow radio show on October 25th to promote the conference. Also, the Master Gardeners will have an educational booth at this weekend’s Home and Garden Show and will have printed programs on hand."

Denise has been the Chairwoman of this year's SCLC.

To see the conference program and print out a registration form, go HERE. You can also pre-register online HERE.

ALL persons are welcomed and will get valuable info and tips about trees (including fruit trees), rainwater management, turf and composting. Many sessions are in Spanish.