Apparently we need a new Water Act. We not only need a new act but much tougher regulations to maintain the quality of our water. Our government is about to develop a new water policy for Alberta and the suggestion of water markets has reared its ugly head.
Top priority should be given to protecting and conserving this precious resource. It may be coincidental but this concern with developing new water policy comes as the stampede to recover methane gas by hydrofracking begins in this province
Hydrofracking is a danger to our water supply for two reasons. First it requires millions and millions of gallons of water. And secondly, despite what the government and oil companies claim, there is a threat of contaminating our beautiful fresh water aquifers.
Hydrofracking has been used for years according to Ted Morton, minister of Energy, and no contamination has ever been proven. I think the key word here is proven.
Today horizontal hydrofracking takes much larger quantities of water and a much larger area of rock is fracked. When Morton says we have had hydrofracking for years, it is like comparing apples and oranges. Never before have they required so much water. Where will this water come from?
Recently the ERA in the States stated fracking is to blame for contamination of water wells in Wyoming. Right here in Alberta, Jessica Ernst is fighting a battle in the courts because of the pollution of her water caused by hydrofracking around Rosebud.
The other problem with hydrofracking is that water is laced with sand and toxic chemicals and forced underground to fracture the rock. Some of the water returns to the surface and can be reused in the next frac but most of it remains underground and is lost from the water cycle forever.
Eventually, the water that does return, becomes too polluted to reuse and this toxic mess is held in holding ponds. Spills from these can threaten our surface water.
The Alberta government is trying to find a way to provide the water the oil companies need for this shale gas frenzy. The oil companies claim that they can cement the walls of the wells to prevent leakage but cement cracks and earthquakes occur.
Natural fissures and cracks in the underground rocks plus the hundreds of old well sites in this province can provide a path for this toxic mess to enter the aquifers.
Quebec has put a moratorium on hydrofracking. Pennsylvania is struggling with pollution of water wells. New York State has banned hydrofracking. Wyoming has a huge number of contaminated wells. Countries like France and Holland have said no to hydrofracking.
Therefore we must be very watchful, that this review of our water use, is not just a back door way of providing oil companies with the enormous amounts of water needed for horizontal hydrofracking.
Water should be managed by an independent board with expertise to regulate and police a new water policy that protects our aquatic ecosystems and human health first and foremost. Water is a resource that should be managed in trust for the community.
It should not be thought of as a commodity, to be bought and sold with economics being the top priority, rather than the environment and human health.
Participate in the future discussions on the development of a new water act. Perhaps we need a moratorium on hydrofracking. Meetings will be held around the province in the next few months. Voice your thoughts to your MLAs on how our water should be managed and conserved. Your grandchildren are depending on you.
Lois A. Denis