Reporting Jason Allen
FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - On the dry, browning shores of the Trinity River, across from Rockwood Park in Fort Worth, is a familiar looking installation — a half dozen pipes connected to large pumps extend down the bank into river. The brown water boils as it is sucked up a long stretch of pipes, past Greenwood Cemetery and around a neighborhood.
The pipes end at a well, where the water is forced into the ground to break up shale and release natural gas.
And this big industrial project is less than a mile down the river from people in swimsuits, inner tubes and paddle boards — at an event designed to promote the river as an accessible and enjoyable recreation area. Several people at the ‘Rockin’ the River’ event said that it did not seem fair. “Well, it seems like we need the water [from the banks of the river],” Amy Todd said Thursday. “So, why are they taking it?”
This is one of at least two operations on the Trinity River right now. The other well is taking water across Trinity River Park, south of Seventh Street.
Starting on Monday, most of Tarrant County will be under water restrictions, limiting outdoor water use because of shrinking reservoirs. But the Tarrant Regional Water District said that state law does not allow it to cut back or stop sales to commercial customers until a later stage of drought restrictions.
“It’s your yard. You pay your bills. You pay your taxes. And so do they,” said Erin Baxley. “But they get to benefit and take all the water from you. And what do you get? A nasty brown yard.”
Yards use more water by far, according to district and city statistics. The Tarrant Regional Water District said that drilling operations typically account for just one percent of water usage, versus 50 to 60 percent for outdoor watering. The operations usually take between three to four million gallons of water, which is purchased from the water district at double the usual wholesale rate.
A Chesapeake Energy spokesman said on Thursday that the company does consider conservation. It will even put some projects off if water becomes an issue. But it also has a responsibility to employees, partners, and even power plants that run on natural gas.
Some people swimming in the river agreed, saying that it was better for somebody to make use of the water before it is gone. “It’s going to disappear regardless,” said Marcus Lopez. “The sun’s going to take it. We’re going to take it. The drillers going to take it.”