Preface from Jim Olson
Water in Michigan is recognized as a public resource or the “waters of the state.” Landowners or those leasing from them have a right to use water, but not unreasonably and it generally not by removing it permanently from watersheds. FLOW board member Ted Curran rightly calls on the state to start treating water as the valuable public resource that it is.
Make Them Pay
The oil and gas companies using millions of gallons of Michigan water to extract natural gas from fracturing shale should be required to pay a fee per gallon for the water used. So far, Michigan water has been used without cost; and, by the way, is no longer usable after it is ruined by the chemicals used in “fracking.” Also, the water taken will lower water tables at a time when Michigan water levels, including the Great Lakes, are at historic lows.
Natural gas exploration and extraction have become important factors in U.S. long-term energy needs, but it is vital that the method used do not create new environmental problems. Fresh water used in “fracking” is an example: Since the water is a public resource and the water used in gas drilling is removed from the water cycle and cannot be reused for human consumption or for agricultural purposes, it is vital that states—including Michigan—and local communities immediately begin charging a fee per gallon for fresh water used in “fracking” so that funds will be available to provide new sources of fresh water and or research the current practice of “fracking” water use to come up with a different natural gas extraction technology that protects groundwater and the Great Lakes.
A shorter version of this op-ed appeared in the Traverse City Record-Eagle Opinion section on April 10, 2013