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ConocoPhillips, Others Show Thirst for Groundwater

As water conservation measures come up short, industrial facilities, including one owned by ConocoPhillips, are increasingly turning to groundwater as a water source, according to an article in the New York Times.

Last summer, as drought gripped large swathes of Texas, ConocoPhillips applied for a permit to tap a well on the property of its Sweeny, Texas, refinery in a bid to replace diminishing supplies in the San Bernard River, its main water source. The permit was approved last month, the paper reports.

ConocoPhillips is actively looking at local water issues company-wide. The firm is a member of the Global Environmental Management Initiative, a body which last year announced it was developing a free tool to help companies understand their local water challenges.

More and more industrial facilities can be expected to follow the Sweeny refinery’s lead, according to Charles R. Porter Jr., assistant professor at St. Edward’s University. Virtually all surface water rights are already allocated, he says.

A planned Summit Power Group coal station near Odessa, Texas, recently penned a deal for brackish groundwater from a local landowner after struggling to get rights to surface water, the Times reports.

Last year it emerged that the Texas drought had eroded public support for new coal-fired power plants. Proposed facilities have been facing stiff opposition from farmers, ranchers, shrimpers and residents, who cite the huge amount of water that power facilities require.

The drought has had consequences for other industries, as well. Ranchers have been forced to buy in hay from other states and reduce the size of their herds. And much of last year’s cotton crop died, leading Gap to cut its profit forecast by 22 percent.

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