Pro-fracking argument is all gas

By: Jeremy Westgarth-Taylor

In his address on fracking at the Press Club on May 23, Chris Nissen made some extraordinarily erroneous statements.

What's so pretty about this? Photo by World Resources Institute

Mr Nissen agreed that the ANC had a financial interest in Shell, but he sees nothing wrong with this. Thus the ANC are both the decision makers – as to whether the practice of fracking should go ahead – and part owners of the fracking company. This makes them both the player and referee.

He states that the groundwater in the Karoo is “useless”. He thereby, accepts that the groundwater will indeed be destroyed by fracking. Mr Nissen, the whole of the Karoo depends on groundwater for its survival. By polluting the aquifer, the Karoo as we know it today will be destroyed forever.

Is your memory so short that you forget that only last year Beaufort West was kept alive by some kind folk who donated and trucked water to the town when their dam completely dried up? The town thereafter survived on water supplied exclusively from boreholes.

If the ANC and Shell partnership goes ahead then municipalities will die too.

The surface water will be affected too. It will be polluted from the drilling tailings, fracking fluids and radioactive minerals left on the surface that will run off into rivers. Add to this the trillions of litres of sea water that Shell and others intend to truck into the Karoo, the first avenue is into rivers.

Addressing the topic of renewables, Mr Nissen spoke of the ugliness of wind turbines. He did not mention PV (photovoltaic) technology at all. Are drilling rigs, gas pipelines, pylons and coal power stations pretty? Why single out wind turbines? Continue reading

Solutions to acid mine drainage to receive highest priority

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 13 June 2011

Environmental officials are working around the clock to curb the potential dangers posed by the impact of acid mine drainage in the Witwatersrand mining area, government news agency BuaNews reported on Monday.

Acid mine water overflowing from an old mine shaft on the Black Reef Incline, near Rand Uranium's treatment pond, 30 January 2010.

An expert team appointed by Cabinet to advise the interministerial committee on the dangers of acid mine drainage to Gauteng warned earlier this year of the need to avert an impending crisis.

The team, drawn from the Council for Geosciences and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), among others, identified various risk categories, including the contamination of surface and ground water required for agricultural and human consumption.

Their recommendations were housed in an acid mine drainage report.

According to a statement issued by the Department of Water Affairs this week, “important progress” had been made by the state in implementing the immediate and short-term actions recommended in the acid mine drainage report. Continue reading

Water warning for agriculture

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 09 June 2011

Climate change will have major impacts on the availability of water for growing food and on crop productivity in the decades to come, warns a new FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations] report.

Loss of glaciers will eventually impact the amount of surface water available for agriculture

‘Climate Change, Water, and Food Security’ is a comprehensive survey of existing scientific knowledge on the anticipated consequences of climate change for water use in agriculture.

These include reductions in river runoff and aquifer recharges in the Mediterranean and the semi-arid areas of the Americas, Australia and southern Africa — regions that are already water-stressed. In Asia, large areas of irrigated land that rely on snowmelt and mountain glaciers for water will also be affected, while heavily populated river deltas are at risk from a combination of reduced water flows, increased salinity, and rising sea levels.

Additional impacts described in the report:

An acceleration of the world’s hydrological cycle is anticipated as rising temperatures increase the rate of evaporation from land and sea. Rainfall will increase in the tropics and higher latitudes, but decrease in already dry semi-arid to mid-arid latitudes and in the interior of large continents. A greater frequency in droughts and floods will need to be planned for but already, water scarce areas of the world are expected to become drier and hotter.

Even though estimates of groundwater recharge under climate change cannot be made with any certainty, the increasing frequency of drought can be expected to encourage further development of available groundwater to buffer the production risk for farmers. Continue reading

Drinking water contaminated by fracking

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 11 May 2011

Methane leaks are contaminating drinking water near shale gas drilling sites in the eastern United States, scientists said on Tuesday, placing a further question mark over this fast-growing energy source.

Shale gas carries a greater carbon footprint than oil, coal and conventional gas, using current extraction techniques

Scientists tested water samples taken from 68 private wells in five counties in Pennsylvania and New York to explore accusations that “hydro-fracking” – a contested technique to extract shale gas – contaminated groundwater.

Methane was found in 85 percent of the samples, and at sites within a kilometre of active hydraulic-fracturing operations, levels were 17 times higher than in wells far from such operations, said the study by researchers at Duke University in North Carolina.

“In these rural areas, almost everybody has a well. They are using the groundwater for some purpose – they are using it for drinking, for their livestock, for agriculture,” lead author Stephen Osborn told AFP.

However, little is known about the health impacts of consuming methane in drinking water.

“We were surprised, and we have spoken with many health officials,” he said.

“There is really no literature that addresses that particular issue – the physiological response – is methane really non-reactive in the body? What are the effects of consuming high concentrations of methane?” Continue reading

Water partnership launched to protect SA’s water resources

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 05 May 2011

At the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs of South Africa Edna Molewa, Chairman of Nestlé and Chairman of the Water Resources Group Peter Brabeck-Letmathe announced today a Declaration of Partnership.

Water demand is expected to rise by 52% within 30 years while supply is sharply declining

Recognizing the critical role that water plays as a catalyst for both economic growth and social development, the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) of South Africa forges a partnership with the Water Resources Group (WRG), an influential public-private global network on water supported by the World Economic Forum and the International Finance Corporation.

This new public-private group, chaired by the director-general of the DWA, will oversee the activities of a partnership called “South Africa Strategic Water Partners Network” to address critical water issues in South Africa: water conservation, demand management and developing more sustainable management of groundwater resources.

“This new partnership between the Government of South Africa and the Water Resources Group will help identify how South Africa’s plans for growth can be met with the water it has safely available. The foresight and leadership of Minister Molewa in this regard should be applauded” remarked Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman of Nestlé and Chairman of the Water Resources Group.

In South Africa, water demand is expected to rise by 52% within the next 30 years while the supply of water is sharply declining. If current trends of leakage from aged and poorly maintained municipal infrastructure and the loss of wetlands persist, this growth in demand will intensify competition for water resources across all sectors of the economy (agriculture, energy industry and domestic).

Should status quo in management practices remain, a gap of 17% between water demand and supply is forecast by 2030. This gap will have serious social and political implications and strongly impact South Africa’s plans for economic growth. Continue reading