The extreme drought in California is now way beyond a simple emergency, heading fast towards unsolvable crisis. Yet, many companies seem to be benefiting from those in need, first were the water bottling firms, now the oil companies.
If we have to be optimistic, there is one good thing that comes out of the devastating situation in California, and that is the fact that people are more openly speaking and pointing fingers at everyone, who dares waste the precious liquid gold.
Just a few weeks ago, we told you about Nestle bottling up the water from streams in California’s forest. Now it is time to point at another corporate giant, or giants, who take advantage of the limited water in the state. Meet the oil companies, Chevron to name one out of many, who turned selling waste water from oil production to desperate farmers into a very profitable and convenient business.
At first, the idea might sound quite noble, of course no one should let water go to waste. But even if we leave aside the fact that the millions of gallons of wastewater are sold at ridiculously high prices to farmers, the quality and suitability of this water for agricultural purposes is very questionable.
To start with, the salinity of groundwater during periods of drought is very high, so in order for farmers to be able to use it for irrigation, they have to mix it with fresh water. It is quite often, however, that limited finances prevent them from being able to do this procedure, and they use it as is, affecting even further soil productivity.
Another pressing issue that results from using wastewater from oil production for farming, concerns levels of chemicals. An ongoing study by scientists from the USGS is now testing whether this water contains oil-producing chemicals or heavy metals. Although it is unlikely that these get taken up by crops, run off water that is not used by plants could easily enter the water table.
When something is present in great abundance, wasting it somehow never seems like a problem. However, the story changes completely as soon as the resource starts running out. The case here is a perfect example for this. For years oil companies have been wasting and polluting water, yet it took a severe drought and crisis for people to start seeing these companies’ actions as a major environmental threat. Anyhow, better late than never.
Image (c) AP