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article imageOp-Ed: Keystone XL pipeline project threatens Ogallala Aquifer (Part 3)

By Grace C. Visconti     Sep 7, 2011 in Environment
Calgary - With the installation of the Keystone XL pipeline, the huge Ogallala Aquifer that supplies fresh water to 82 percent of the people living within its boundary is at risk.
The consequences of any major oil leaks created by the Keystone XL pipeline will be alarming if it contaminates the Ogallala Aquifer. The Ogallala Aquifer stretches across the High Plains of the U.S. extending northward from western Texas to South Dakota. It is the most important geological formation in the High Plains that underlies 450,000 square kilometers or 174,000 square miles and covers eight states including: South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas. The danger of a pipeline crossing this aquifer is that although vast, it is shallow, leaving the water open to contamination from pipeline leaks. About 30 percent of the nation’s groundwater is used for irrigation from this aquifer. Additionally, the aquifer system supplies drinking water to 82 percent of the people living within its boundary.
Proof that a pipeline leak can cause considerable damage occurred in the spring of 2011 in northern Alberta when a devastating leak caused ecological contamination and severe illness to the people. It was the worst oil spill since 1975, as 4.5 million litres (28,000 barrels) of oil spilled across the Peace River watershed in northern Alberta. The pipeline was 44 years old. One of the worst spills in Alberta was in 1975, when crude oil was unloaded into the Bow River – about 6.5 million litres worth. Effects of this recent spill were devastating for the natural habitat as well as the people living in the area and can be viewed at David Suzuki’s blog Alberta’s biggest oil spill in 30 years is a call to action for Canadians.
The Council of Canadians and Food & Water Watch is a Canadian environmental organization that brings another contentious issue to the forefront. The Keystone XL Pipeline could be used to transport water from the Ogallala Aquifer to other states that need it. They also claim that the water and climate crisis is “deeply interconnected.” If tapped for water transportation, this reliable water resource may be depleted so much that it will make the Midwest and the breadbasket of America uneconomical to farm in the future. See the full article TransCanada admits Keystone Pipeline could be used for bulk water removals, posted on August 16, 2011.
There will most likely be more protests here in Calgary, definitely one later this month in Ottawa, and in key U.S. cities if the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline project is approved and the installation begins.
Whether the Keystone XL pipeline is used for the transportation of oil or water, one thing is certain: future generations will pay for damage done to the ecosystems of both countries. At a time when Canada and the U.S. could be aggressively putting money into research and development by exploring, supporting and promoting clean energy alternatives, the importance of respecting our environment and the undesirable consequences of choices made now, will result in lessons learned or not learned later.
Link Sources:
TransCanada website – Keystone Pipeline project

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This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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