Oil and Water in Moab on Wednesday's Access Utah

Feb 19, 2014

Moab is debating whether city tap water should be used for oil and gas drilling. Jon Kovash recently reported on this issue for UPR: “Moab has seen a drilling boom in the last two years, and many more wells are planned. 

Oil machinery in Moab, UT.
Oil machinery in Moab, UT.
Credit ksl.com

The water trucks, along with tandem dump trucks full of drilling sand, are also creating dramatic new traffic on local highways that access Canyonlands. Moab is just one of scores of towns across the West where city water is being sold for industrial uses, including drilling and fracking, and cities sometimes even drill new wells to supply the water. The driller of nine active oil and gas wells near Island in the Sky says the wells are not being fracked, saving water. But Heila Ershadi of the Moab City Council fears that could change sooner than the city has imagined. ‘If Moab grows the way we are planning, and if oil and gas developments grow, it does look like there could be a conflict in the future, where there wouldn’t be enough water for local businesses. There’s been talk of putting a cap on the amount that is sold to oil and gas or any business that is not operating in Moab. I would like to see the cap set at no water, no culinary water for oil and gas development.’” We’ll explore issues of oil & water on Wednesday’s AU.

Comment's from listeners:

"I haven't lived in Moab for over a decade. In 2005 I moved the Zephyr south to San Juan County. Nowadays my wife and I even hide out part of the year on the Great Plains. I rarely dabble in Moab politics these days. It is a very different town.

But since you asked, regarding Moab water and oil & gas issues, I suppose I have a different take on it. Moab City officials released data last year revealing that commercial construction in the community exceeded $16 million in just the first quarter of 2013. The reality is, a tourist economy desperately needs an ever-growing supply of affordable oil to meet expected increases in tourist visitation. But they fear oil exploitation in their area will adversely affect tourism. Most Moabites fail to see the contradiction.

For a decade, I have tried to honor and respect these words by the great author and conservationist Wendell Berry:

'...this is what is wrong with the conservation movement. It has a clear conscience....To the conservation movement, it is only production that causes environmental degradation; the consumption that supports the production is rarely acknowledged to be at fault. The ideal of the run-of-the-mill conservationist is to impose restraints upon production without limiting consumption or burdening the consciences of consumers.'

Last year I quoted from a United Nations report on the impact of tourism on climate change. 'In 2005, tourism’s contribution to global warming was estimated to contribute between 5% and 14% to the overall warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse.' More specifically, the report noted by 2035, tourism’s contribution to climate change may have grown considerably. Yet most "New Moabites" argue that tourism is a clean alternative economy, a win-win for everyone.

It's from a very long Zephyr story called, "Moab & Fracking & Climate Change & Elevated Bikeways."

I am by no means supportive of reckless oil and gas development and extraction. But I just couldn't live with the hypocrisy anymore. When I see Moab address its own contradictions,  I'll take their objections seriously. I hope some day, the mainstream media will give the "production vs consumption" issue some real air time, but so far it has been painfully silent," - Jim Stiles

"I appreciate this conversation and feel that it imperative that all citizens are informed about development in the area.

A few questions and comments: What makes Bill Love a "water expert?"  I would like to have a better understanding of his field of study and the title that he has been given.

Secondly, I'm an environmental educator and have a tremendous love of the environment in which I live; however, I also have an deep understanding that all humans have a great impact on that environment and the extraction of natural resources is imperative to satisfy all of our needs. Having oil and gas development not only provides industry for our valley, but hopefully it makes all of us conscience of the resources in which we are demanding." - Trisha Hedin

"Thanks to all who called in, to Heila Ershadi and Bill Love and to the folks at Utah Public Radio for making time for this issue. So great to be able to participate!" - Celia Alario

"It's bad enough that water is exploited without a perspective of ecological carrying capacities, long-term planning, or the ecological needs of healthy watersheds; but we also must look at the implications beyond present water use.  Moab is being rapidly industrialized without any forethought, planning, or public mandate.  Clean air, clean water, quality of life, local economy, open space and national park values, and community sustainability are in question here.  It is government's job to actively and creatively protect community health, safety and welfare over fearing vague legal issues." -Bob Lippman