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Thirsty Mexico City Sends a Message: "America is poisoning wells it might need in the future"

2 min. read

As this article clearly demonstrates, the idea that some water supplies are simply too deep to ever be of any use to humans, so there's no harm in contaminating it - with fracking fluids or whatever - turns out to be highly dubious at best.

Mexico City plans to draw drinking water from a mile-deep aquifer, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. The Mexican effort challenges a key tenet of U.S. clean water policy: that water far underground can be intentionally polluted because it will never be used.

U.S. environmental regulators have long assumed that reservoirs located thousands of feet underground will be too expensive to tap. So even as population increases, temperatures rise, and traditional water supplies dry up, American scientists and policy-makers often exempt these deep aquifers from clean water protections and allow energy and mining companies to inject pollutants directly into them.

[...]

If Mexico City's search for water seems extreme, it is not unusual. In aquifers Denver relies on, drinking water levels have dropped more than 300 feet. Texas rationed some water use last summer in the midst of a record-breaking drought. And Nevada — realizing that the water levels in one of the nation's largest reservoirs may soon drop below the intake pipes — is building a drain hole to sap every last drop from the bottom.

"Water is limited, so they are really hustling to find other types of water," said Mark Williams, a hydrologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder. "It's kind of a grim future, there's no two ways about it."

In a parched world, Mexico City is sending a message: Deep, unknown potential sources of drinking water matter, and the U.S. pollutes them at its peril.

To put it another way, the question is whether it makes any sense to throw away drinking water supplies, ones that we will almost certainly need in the not-too-distant future, indefinitely?  And even it were worth doing this, which it clearly isn't, would it make sense simply to push off the day when we transition fully away from fossil fuels and to an economy run on clean, safe, renewable energy? We think not, on both counts.