After examining the use of water by the oil and gas industry during Gavin Newsom’s tenure as governor, Food & Water Watch research has found that on Newsom’s watch the industry used more than 3 billion gallons of freshwater for drilling operations that could have been diverted for household use.
“Fossil fuel extraction not only hastens climate change and endangers the lives of frontline communities,” said Alexandra Nagy, director of Food & Water Watch’s California campaigns. “It also takes water from Californians struggling through one of the hottest and driest droughts on record. Regions like the San Joaquin Valley are bracing for a dry summer that will leave many without drinking water, a devastating prospect for a predominantly rural, Latinx region already suffering from decades of pollution from factory farms. Based on the recommendations provided by the state to Californians for water usage in a drought, the freshwater used by the oil and gas industry during Newsom’s term could have provided everyone in Ventura with more than a year’s worth of water.”
Some oil and gas companies routinely inject drilling wastewater into freshwater aquifers, rendering their water supply undrinkable. One study estimated that groundwater in the Central Valley Aquifer has the potential to decrease by 21 trillion gallons in the next 30 years without significant management and policy changes. Governor Newsom has set the date for phasing out oil drilling in 2045. The research also notes that as greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel extraction rise and fuel climate change, California will continue to see drier droughts and more widespread wildfires. Should the average temperature increase by 1 degree Fahrenheit, water supplies from the State Water and Central Valley Projects are expected to decrease by 4%.
“This is not a problem to be solved decades from now,” Nagy added. “20 years is too late for the communities on the frontlines going thirsty because the fossil fuel industry is sucking up their freshwater and leaving polluted aquifers in its wake. Governor Newsom must end all fossil fuel extraction not only for the sake of our climate, but also for the sake of Californians who depend on water resources that are already dwindling. Our state will burn and our rivers and aquifers will dry up unless Gov. Newsom displays the climate leadership he has long claimed to prioritize: ban oil drilling and all fossil fuel extraction now.”
Contact: Jessica Gable, jgable[at]fwwatch.org, (202) 683-2478