The drought that has been afflicting California for a few years has been the worst in over a thousand years, according to scientists, killing over 12 million trees and pushing authorities to impose mandatory water usage cuts. Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures, but can we go too far?
A recent Bloomberg piece explains how drilling wastewater from the oil & gas industry is now being sold to farms to irrigate food crops.
In central California’s San Joaquin Valley, Chevron piped almost 8 billion gallons of treated wastewater to almond and pistachio farmers last year. California Resources Corp., the state’s biggest oil producer, plans to quadruple the water it sells to growers, Chief Executive Officer Todd Stevens told investors at an April conference.
The question, of course, is whether this is a safe practice. At first glance it certainly sounds very bad, but in theory, if we have the technology to treat the water and we have all kinds of tests and sensors available to make sure that it was indeed decontaminated, it shouldn't be a problem. But in practice, are we sure that this is what is going on and that enough care is being used for something that will directly end up in precious fertile soil and in the food supply?
An environmental group, Water Defense, questioned earlier this year whether Chevron’s sales to farmers risked industrial chemicals contaminating the food chain. The local water-quality control board ordered the company to conduct tests and Chevron says it has met all the pollution standards in its permit.