At Trinity Park, a popular picnic spot near downtown Fort Worth, Texas, a scorching summer has killed stately oaks and turned lawns into brittle moonscapes. On the park's eastern edge, loud diesel generators pump some 4 million gallons of water from the Trinity River, though they're not supplying the park or city residents, who began facing drought-imposed watering restrictions on Monday. Instead, Chesapeake Energy is piping the water across the park to frack a nearby natural gas well.
As Texas faces its worst single-year drought ever, many drinking wells have failed, entire towns could go dry, and millions of residential water users face mandatory cutbacks. A study released at a meeting of Texas water districts yesterday predicted that the drought will persist through next summer. But so far, the state's booming and increasingly thirsty natural gas industry faces no limits to how much water it can pump.
"In a drought like this, every drop is important," says Don Young, a local anti-fracking activist who showed me where Chesapeake's water pipes had been hoisted over a jogging trail. "And if we're asked to conserve, then I think the drilling industry should be doing the same thing."