Mexico's plan to draw drinking water from an underground aquifer has led scientists to question the U.S.'s policy of not using underground water reserves and for closing off the potential to do so by polluting a high level of underground wells.
The L.A. Times has reported that Mexico City plans to utilize an aquifer located more than a mile below ground. This is being considered in order to reduce the city's dependence upon water being pumped from outlying areas and to lower the impact upon the region's shallower aquifers.
An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock from which groundwater can be extracted using a water well.
According to a report by Pro Publica, this has led some to question a long-standing U.S. environment policy.
The U.S. strategy for water management does not include the exploitation of underground water. This is because drawing water from deep underground is considered too expensive. The cost-benefit of this aside, the U.S. has been criticized for incrementally reducing any future options to use underground water by allowing wells to be polluted.
In theory this runs counter to the The Safe Drinking Water Act, which explicitly prohibits injection into a source of drinking water. However, the U.S. government can grant exemptions and it is the rate of these exemptions that are worrying some people and campaign groups.
In relation to this issue, Pro Publica notes that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued more than 1,500 permits for companies to pollute such aquifers in some of the driest regions. This is to meet the requirements of the oil and gas, mining and other industries.
Some criticisms of the strategy have been raised by EPA scientists. One unnamed source, reputedly a hydrogeologist at the EPA, is quoted by Inside Climate News as saying: "The energy policy in the U.S is keeping this from happening because right now nobody — nobody — wants to interfere with the development of oil and gas or uranium."
Further comments about the U.S. approach have come from a campaign group called 'Force Change'. They note: "The EPA, however, has violated this essential duty, resulting in citizens being forced to use polluted water for drinking, irrigating out nation’s crops, and feeding livestock. Even worse, the EPA has not kept accurate records of locations where they allowed such exemptions and how many exemptions were granted. In addition, many exemptions were granted in areas where the water required very little to no purification, essentially polluting pristine drinking water supplies."
This issue is likely to lead to further discussion and debate. This will center on the need for industry to produce fuel and products, against the future predictions relating to the need for clean water.