Josephine V. Yam

The Race for Water

There is a “new race for water” that has farmers from the arid heartlands of Colorado, USA, competing against energy companies for the purchase of this increasingly scarce resource, reports the New York Times. What has aggravated this rivalry even more is this summer’s record-breaking drought that has scorched the already parched land and has ruined farmers’ crops.

The article notes that farmers in Colorado pay about $30 - $100 per acre foot of water. This is juxtaposed to the oil and gas companies that pay about $1,000 - $2,000 for the same amount of water from city pipes. While this revenue is a boon to local water utilities, farmers complain that they lack the deep pockets to compete with these companies.

Energy companies are buying tons of water that is needed for their hydraulic fracturing techniques to crack the ground and release the oil and gas that is stored beneath it. They estimate that they will use about 6.5 billion gallons of water in Colorado this year, which is about 0.1 percent of overall water use. This is almost nothing compared to the 85.5 percent that is used for irrigation and agriculture in Colorado.

Said Mike Chiropolos, a Colorado lawyer: “Water flows uphill to money… It’s only going to get more precious and more scarce.”