Watch out water shortages are getting worse, fracking is bidding for the water

Droughts are scattered around and typically agriculture gets first priority.  But, as reports Fracking is causing problems.

Fracking is occurring in several counties in Arkansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming, which are currently suffering a severe drought, the Associated Press reports. Although the procedure requires less water than farming or overall residential uses, it contributes to the depletion of an already-scare resource.

Some oil and gas companies manage to drain states of their water supply without spending any money, by depleting underground aquifers or rivers. But when unable to acquire the resource for free, the corporations can purchase large quantities at hefty prices. 

“There is a new player for water, which is oil and gas,” Colorado farmer Kent Peppler told AP, noting that he is fallowing some of his corn fields because he can’t afford to irritate them. “And certainly they are in a position to pay a whole lot more than we are.”

Peppler, president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, said that the price of water has skyrocketed since oil companies have moved in. The Meade, Colo. Farmer said he used to pay $9 to $100 per acre-foot of water at city-held auctions, but that energy companies are now buying the excess supplies for $1,200 to $2,900 per acre-foot.

NPR has a good post on Water Wars.

There are two doctrines that govern surface water rights in the U.S. — one for the West and one for the East.

'A Reasonable Right'

The riparian doctrine covers the East. "[Under] the riparian doctrine, if you live close to the river or to that water body [or] lake, you have reasonable rights to use that water," says Venki Uddameri, a professor and the director of water resources at Texas Tech University.

The Western U.S. uses the prior appropriation doctrine. "As people started exploring the West and started looking for water for agriculture and mining, there was a need to move water away from the rivers," Uddameri tells Jacki Lyden, host of weekends on All Things Considered.

People wanted a claim to water but often lived too far away from a river for the riparian doctrine to make any sense. So the prior appropriation doctrine was devised.

Uddameri explains: "It allocates rights based on who started using the water first. So if you are first in time, you are first in rights. And historically, it was based on a permitting process where you go and say you asked for the permit first, so you became the first user.

"But then there's been a shift saying not first use strictly based on who asked for the permit first, but who was actually there first," he says. "So the Indian tribes who were there first may not have asked for a permit, but there's recognition now that they were the first users of water, so they get that first appropriation."

Very few, but some of the smartest data center people look at the water rights for their data center.  Do you?

In an arid place like the Klamath Basin, there often isn't enough water available for everyone who has a right to use it. And the person with the oldest water right gets all the water they are entitled to first.