One of the major concerns about TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline is the possibility that it would contaminate the Ogallala aquifer as it crosses Nebraska. (And remember, Keystone XL is eight times more likely to damage the aquifer than TransCanada tells us.) But even if we luck out and TransCanada doesn't damage the Ogallala aquifer, they may still drain it.

The Council of Canadians was reviewing the transcript of testimony by Jim Krause, TransCanada's pipeline operations manager, before the Nebraska Legislature back in February. Krause answered a question about what happens years down the road when TransCanada has no further use for Keystone XL. In discussing the decommissioning process, Krause mentioned alternative uses for pipeline, including shipping gasoline or water.

What major water sources would the Keystone XL pipeline cross?

Map: Keystone I and Keystone XL tar sands oil pipelines, Ogallala aquifer

TransCanada to Ogallala Aquifer: "Slurp!"

Keystone XL and its installed sister line Keystone I both cross the Ogallala aquifer. They also cross the Missouri River. Keystone I crosses the Mississippi.

Consider that the Lewis and Clark Rural Water System plans to be able to pipe an average of 22 to 23 million gallons of water per day out of the Missouri River to thirsty towns in the lower Sioux River basin. That's more than a half-million barrels a day. Keystone I alone has about that same capacity; Keystone XL will bring the whole system's capacity up to 1.4 million barrels per day... and that's pumping heavy, gritty, corrosive oil. Imagine how much more clean prairie water could shoot through those two 36-inch pipes.

So maybe TransCanada really does have an interest in protecting the Ogallala aquifer and other prairie water resources. They don't want to pollute our water; after the oil runs out, they want to drain our water and sell it.