But this isn’t a story about coal, or natural gas. Terrifyingly, it’s about water.
About a century ago, oil-drilling technology allowed people in the
The ability to reach that water led to a booming agricultural economy in the desert. But for most of that time, local farmers had been using the aquifer “gently,” in Shannon’s words, and any ill effects to the groundwater supply couldn’t be easily seen.
That began to change in the early years of this century, when corporate farming operations squeezed out of other areas by drought, as well as regulations meant to protect water supplies, moved into southwestern
“What the smart money is doing is looking around and saying, ‘Where else can we go where there is no regulation?’ ”
That’s why companies like the
The large farms initially produced many crops traditionally grown in
At first, many local residents didn’t mind the big farms. “There’s more outside money moving in, and it’s great for the area,” said farmer
But as more families lost water as the level of the aquifer dropped, Seitz and others realized that the boom was “good for the area on one hand, but we’re still shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Efforts by residents like him to protect the essential underground water supply have met with strong resistance from farming lobbyists, and no success at the state legislative level. That’s something else that will ring familiar for West Virginians who’ve tried to hold companies accountable for the damage done to their lands, homes and streams.
In fact, hydrogeologists have a term for what’s going on in
“But the mining industry isn’t a long-term industry,” said rancher
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