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Oil's Spoils

During  a severe drought in the region, the oil industry received 8.4 billion gallons a yearas much water as it neededfrom the network of aqueducts and canals that carry water from Sierra Nevada rivers and reservoirs
Photos © 2010 Ronnie Smith for Circle of Blue

The energy vector in the United States points strongly to more fossil fuel consumption. Unconventional tar sands and shale oil reserves in North Dakota, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado are said by the Energy Department to contain trillions of barrels of oil, enough to fuel the country at the current level of demand - about 7 billion barrels a year -- for hundreds of years.

Developers in North Dakota are spending roughly $7 billion annually to drill 1,000 wells into the Bakken Shale -an oil-rich formation that also lies deep below Montana and parts of Canada. The investment is reaping a bonanza-100 million barrels of oil and 100 billion cubic feet of gas this year-making the state the nation's fourth largest producer of oil, just behind Texas, Alaska and California. Three years ago it was barely in the top ten.

Farther west, in Kern County, Calif., the oil industry dominates the race with agriculture for the limited supplies of water for irrigation and energy production. While a severe drought wracked the state, and agricultural and environmental groups wrangled over sharply reduced water shipments to irrigate the arid San Joaquin Valley, the oil industry received 8.4 billion gallons a year-as much water as it needed.

Feature Stories

Water Demand is Flash Point in Dakota Oil Boom

Production from the Bakken Shale is projected to use up to 5.5 billion gallons of water annually.

California Drought is No Problem for Kern County Oil Producers

Farmers do without water because of oil industry uses.

Indigenous People from Ecuador to Louisiana Forge Alliances Against Global Oil Spills

Indigenous leaders from Amazon rainforests to Bayou swamplands.

“Crude” Director Joe Berlinger Fights Against Chevron’s Subpoena

A documentary filmmaker lands his own day in court against the oil giant.

Bottomless Precedent: BP Gulf Gusher Endemic to Global Oil Problem

Big spills and bigger damage to people and water resources around the globe.

Map: Oil Pipelines and Vegetation in the Niger Delta

Nigeria has been pumping vast amounts of oil since the 1950s. This map shows the oil fields, pipelines, and terminals in relation to the Niger Delta’s main cities and its differing types of vegetation, from swamplands to rainforests.

War on Water: A Clash Over Oil, Power and Poverty in the Niger Delta

Thousands Search for Fresh Water, Food in a Monumentally Contaminated War Zone

The Forgotten South Caucasus: Where Oil and Water Mix

A “New Great Game” of Geopolitical Control Surfaces in Russia’s Old Backyard

Oil Stories

China’s Oil Spill Threatens International Waters

The world’s largest energy consuming country is plagued by potential ecological damage.

Environmental Groups Sue BP Under Clean Water Act

Landmark act could be used by the federal government to recover billions in fines, send people to jail.

BP Oil Spill Grows, Threatens Region’s Marshlands

The worst oil leak in U.S. history and is now compromising the existence of wildlife in Louisiana’s marshlands.

Oil Spill in Gulf Could Wash Ashore by Friday, Officials

The oil spill from an oil rig explosion could be leaking oil at five times the rate previously assumed.

Oil Slick Makes Its Way to Baghdad

A burst pipeline in northern Iraq has forced authorities to close down three municipal water treatment plants.

Courting Disaster: Chevron Brought Before Law in Ecuador Wastewater Dispute

More than 125,000 people have filed a class-action lawsuit in Ecuador.

Black Gold Blues: Oil Stains Reveal Resource beneath Russian Lake

Comprising 20 percent of the world’s fresh water supply, southern Siberia’s Lake Baikal could tell us how oil forms.

CITGO Fined: Oil and Water Do Not Mix, Decides USDOJ

Delaware petroleum corporation CITGO faces a $13 million fine for its recent Clean Water Act violation.

Oil Giant Wins Bids for Industrial Water Plant in India

Haldia Water Management Ltd (HWML) was awarded a contract to build a large-scale water treatment plant.

Oil Tanker Spills 420,000 Gallons into Mississippi River

Coast Guard officials have acted quickly to close down 29 miles of the Mississippi River near New Orleans.

Those Who Control Oil and Water Control the World

A race for the world’s resources is underway, resembling the decades leading up to WWI.


Infographic: North Dakota’s Rise To Domestic Oil Royalty

North Dakota has become the number four oil producing state—but at what cost to its water supply?

Interactive Map: Top Ten Global Oil Spills

Details of the ten worst oil spills in history by volume, date, location, and company damages.

Q&A: ‘Crude’ Director Joe Berlinger on Chevron Oil in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Featuring Live Earth, Vanity Fair cover, and a CNN Hero Award.





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