MEXICO CITY (CN) - A group of over 40 Mexican civil society organizations called on federal legislators Wednesday to ban the use of water for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in a draft of the country's new national water law.
The Mexican Alliance Against Fracking said in a press release that "rigged wording" in the text of a new federal water usage bill "opens the door to allowing fracking to continue taking place in the country."
The original bill text prohibited the use of all water for the purpose of fracking, but a recent revision added the modifier "water for human consumption and irrigation." The alliance called for the text to be reverted to the original.
"For the good of Mexico, its rural regions, children and future generations, and for the urgent commitment to better water management, it is necessary that it be remain [as in the original text]," the press release said.
The groups claimed that fracking harms human health and the environment by overusing and contaminating water supplies, especially in rural areas.
"Seeing as this is a bill that will go up for discussion, we believe that now is the time to write in better conditions that are in line with the president's promise to end fracking in Mexico," said Beatriz Olivera, executive director of the environmental group Engenera, a member of the alliance.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador put ending fracking on his list of 100 promises to the Mexican people at the beginning of his term. As of September 2020, that promise had been kept, according to the list. A spokesperson for Lopez Obrador did not respond to a request for comment.
According to the alliance, there are 7,879 fracking wells in Mexico, each of which uses 2.4 to 7.6 million gallons of water over the course of its lifetime.
"What we know is that this water is irreversibly contaminated, and in a country like Mexico that is highly vulnerable to climate change, where we have a severe water crisis, this is a big worry for us," said Olivera.
Mexico is indeed suffering a dire water crisis, but the alliance's fears and numbers may be a bit exaggerated, according to energy consultant Gonzalo Monroy.
"The reality is that it is not a widespread problem in Mexico," he said. "There is not a great amount of fracking development, nor is there the interest to develop it in Mexico."
While there may be over 7,800 fracking wells in Mexico, only 17 are truly problematic, Monroy said. These combine hydraulic fracturing with horizontal perforation, which does contaminate and use large amounts of water.
Furthermore, fracking technology has advanced so much in recent years that the contamination directly attributable to the process is minimal. Monroy pointed to an "important shift, technologically speaking" just before the Covid-19 pandemic that greatly cut down on waste and contamination in order to get the most out of a fracking well.
"When you contaminate, you lose natural gas or petroleum, and that's not good business for anyone," he said. "So they decided to do things in a way that eliminated leaks in the wells and led to maximum recovery of the hydrocarbons. If the well is built right, there shouldn't be contamination of any kind."
These new technologies have allowed fracking wells to use up to two-thirds less water than the amounts cited by the alliance, Monroy said.
Source: Courthouse News Service