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California is in the middle of an epic water shortage, with nearly 80 percent  of the state experiencing “extreme or exceptional” drought conditions. Check out this animated map to get a sense of how extensively the drought has impacted the Golden State.

Things have gotten so bad that California enlisted Lady Gaga to record a public service announcement. 

Given the situation, anti-fracking activists say it’s time for Governor Jerry Brown to put a stop to water-intensive fracking, claiming that the controversial oil and gas production method is exacerbating the problem.

“We’re talking about a triple threat to our water from fracking,” says Adam Scow, the California director for Food & Water Watch.

The first threat: The fracking process requires a lot of water, which then becomes unsuitable for any other use.

While it’s true that fracking in California doesn’t require as much water as it does in Texas and Pennsylvania, Scow contends that any amount lost to fracking is unacceptable: “In the middle of the worst drought in 50 years, they’re taking 140,000 to 150,000 gallons of water out of the water cycle per frack job. They’re destroying that amount of water on a daily basis.”

It’s also possible that fracking fluid could leach into underground aquifers, and of course the toxic wastewater left over from fracking has to be disposed of somehow—and therein lies the second threat to California’s water supply.

The California Department of Gas and Geothermal Resources (known asDOGGR) recently ordered 11 fracked wells shut down over fears that they were contaminating potential sources of potable water. As many as 100 other fracking sites are under review, as well.

An unlined pit of unknown neon green fluid leading to a fracking injection well. This pit is in the middle of almond fields and chicken coops. Photo credit: Brooke Anderson
An unlined pit of unknown neon green fluid leading to a fracking injection well. This pit is in the middle of almond fields and chicken coops. Photo credit: Brooke Anderson

The third threat to California’s water supply, according to Scow, is that all of the oil and gas we’ve produced via fracking will eventually get burned and thus contribute to global warming, “which leads to more droughts.”

study published by Utah State University researchers earlier this year bolsters his claim. It concluded that natural variation alone couldn’t account for the severity of California’s drought, and that climate change has in fact made it worse.

There’s a fourth threat to Californians that needs to be considered. Fracking is not just a threat to California’s water cycle, but also to quality of life in general.

Residents of California’s Central Valley region already suffer from a variety of health problems associated with oil drilling, including nausea, headaches, nosebleeds, and rare cancers, as well as a series of respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

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