US lawmakers on Wednesday approved a $100 million project to tap water from California’s aquiferees, as the Obama administration prepares to announce a major federal water project.
The approval of the $9.6 billion hydraulic fracturing (fracking) project comes as the administration seeks to move quickly to roll out a controversial new $1 trillion water rule that would boost the amount of water available from the Ogallala Aquifer, a major source of drinking water for millions of Americans.
In its final approval, the House Energy and Commerce Committee said the project would provide an estimated 12 million barrels of water annually, enough to meet California’s drinking water needs for the next 70 years.
The bill also provided $4.6 million to help local governments and other water agencies purchase water for their aquifes.
It’s the first major federal environmental impact study of the hydraulic fracturing technique, which involves injecting large amounts of water, sand and chemicals into rock formations to break apart the rock.
It is controversial because it uses high-volume hydraulic fracturing technology to fracture rock formations, often creating large, open pits that can release toxic chemicals into the water supply.
Critics have said the technique has caused massive groundwater contamination and widespread earthquakes and have called for more research into the risks.
Opponents say the technique could be the beginning of a new era of drilling, especially for oil and gas production in California’s Central Valley, which includes many large shale deposits.
It has been widely criticized by water conservation groups and scientists, who say it can be harmful to groundwater supplies and damage local watersheds.