CAN WE AFFORD ENHANCED OIL RECOVERY WATER USAGE?
Oil operators are now drilling larger, deeper wells, requiring larger volumes of water required for enhanced oil recovery methods.
Throughout the state, the water required for enhanced oil recovery methods, such as steam injection, hydraulic fracturing and acidizing, produces an annual waste stream of over 130 billion gallons.
The 2014 Monterey County Water Resources Agency report ordered by the Board of Supervisors states, "Sustainable use of groundwater can only be achieved by aggressive and cooperative water resources planning to mitigate seawater intrusion and groundwater head declines." The report that warns "no action" will necessitate the drilling of deeper groundwater wells, but that they may not feasible in some areas because of water quality.
The current level of daily wastewater production is 328,379 barrels (13.8 million gallons). Assuming that 1/3 is treated through RO with a 75% recovery rate, and with the 25% RO treatment residue then combined with the 2/3 untreated amount of wastewater produced daily, over 75% of the toxic wastewater created in oil production is disposed of by injection -- that is more than 10.3 million gallons every day.
The average annual water consumption for the City of Salinas is 4.6 billion gallons (California Water Service Company Salinas District -- monthly water consumption, July 2016) -- this includes all uses (residential consumers, business, industrial, agriculture, etc) -- so the freshwater replacement by treated wastewater for extraction methods would free up current freshwater for use by all Salinas water consumers, representing 46% of all annual City of Salinas water needs.
The reverse osmosis (R/O) process, which "cleans" approx. 2/3 of the water, must contend with numerous contaminants: arsenic, thallium, benzene, formaldehyde, lead, mercury, free oil, and naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORMS), dissolved solids, among more than 200 toxins, before injecting the remaining 1/3 back into the aquifer.
A Government Accountability Office audit of the Environmental Protection Agency found that the EPA has not consistently carried out oversight and regulation of injection wells where oil and natural gas companies are sending streams of wastewater into the ground. Congress was told that the EPA "is unable to properly assess whether sources of drinking water are being protected."
Where will water for households, agriculture, viticulture, and tourism come from if we contaminate the Salinas River groundwater?
Please see references:
CONFIRMED: CALIFORNIA AQUIFERS CONTAMINATED
YALE STUDY ON TOXINS FOUND IN WASTEWATER:
CLEANING PROCESS (editorial feature, Waterworld):
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (State of the Salinas River Groundwater Basin Report, Monterey County
IMPACTS ON GROUNDWATER QUALITY