Drilling Waste-Water Used on California Crops

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

On July 8th, 2015, Alex Nussbaum and David Wethe, writing for Bloomberg Business, published, “California Farms Are Using Drilling Waste Water to Grow Crops.” Nussbaum and Wethe’s article focused on the relationship between oil drilling and wastewater in California. It is significant because of the dangers associated with producing crops using contaminated water which is affecting the surrounding areas of the agriculture fields.

Nussbaum and Wethe’s article focused on the topic of what oil drillers in California are doing with their wastewater. The drought in California has caused Big Oil companies to resolve the problem concerning what to do with the billions of gallons of waste water that run out of wells each year. California oil drillers have pumped most of their wastewater into underground disposal wells. Following four years of drought, these companies have found it profitable to sell their wastewater to farms across the state. The wastewater disposal wells have been under increased scrutiny after regulators stated they have mistakenly allowed oil drilling companies to inject wastewater near underground drinking supplies. OriginClear Inc, a Los Angeles based company, has produced technology that purifies wastewater by zapping it with electric pulses. This technology could potentially make it easier for companies in the state to purify its wastewater.

The topic regarding the use of wastewater to irrigate California agriculture fields is significant because it could be dangerous not only to Californians but to everyone consuming the affected produce. Environmental groups are concerned with recycling wastewater because following its treatment; it is difficult for authorities to accurately test its contents. Watering California agricultural fields with wastewater directly affects the surrounding areas because the soil that children are playing in holds a high risk of contamination. This also affects a large majority of the world due to the amount of California produce exported to other countries that could potentially cause millions of people to become ill because of its prior contamination.

The corporate news coverage of this story has been scant. In a Los Angeles Times article, “Central Valley’s Growing Concern: Crops Raised with Oil Field Water”, reporter Julie Cart researched what is contained in the wastewater, how it is tested, and whether or not Californians should be concerned with this technique of watering crops. Mentioned in the article was a test that revealed samples of oil field water used in California agriculture contained acetone and methylene chloride, even after treatment. Corporate coverage states what is contained in the recycled water, how it is being tested, and if we should be concerned, while the independent coverage by Bloomberg Business states why big oil companies are selling their wastewater to agriculture fields in California.

Overall, this story is significant as it affects many Americans as well as numerous other countries across the globe consuming affected produce generated in California agriculture.

Source: Alex Nussbaum and David Wethe, “California Farms Are Using Drilling Wastewater to Grow Crops,” Bloomberg, July 8, 2015, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-08/in-california-big-oil-finds-water-is-its-most-prized-commodity.

Student Researchers: Graham Herder (California State University, Maritime Academy) and Lauren Freeman (Las Positas College)

Faculty Evaluator: Nolan Higdon (California State University, East Bay)