Fracking’s big footprint: New Report Documents High Levels of Water & Waste

Nadia Steinzor's avatar
By Nadia Steinzor

October 31, 2013

From the very beginning of the shale gas and oil boom, water use and pollution rose to the top of key concerns. Maybe it’s because it takes millions of gallons just to frack a well. Or the special exemptions industry enjoys from the Safe Drinking Water and Clean Water Acts. The era of climate change, when long droughts and intense floods highlight drilling’s impact. And the tens of thousands of rivers and streams nationwide that are already impaired.

So it’s no wonder that questions are being asked—by advocates, communities, researchers, and even industry analysts—about the “energy-water nexus.” This week, we got some answers with the release of a new report by researchers at Downstream Strategies and San Jose State University. Developed in collaboration with Earthworks, the report provides the most comprehensive investigation to date of water used and waste generated by Marcellus Shale gas operations in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, as well as where it all ends up. 

The numbers and their implications are sobering:

This report clearly shows that extracting gas from deep shale is a thirsty and dirty business. Yet even after a careful, months-long research project run by experts, the true and likely much larger extent of water and waste problems from drilling isn’t completely clear. Lax industry reporting and state enforcement mean that huge data gaps remain.  

The precautionary principle implies that a lack of definitive information is no excuse for inaction when environmental protection and public health are at stake. Both common sense and this report make clear that a continued expansion of drilling will inevitably result in more water and more waste—making it imperative for states to not just ride the waves, but quickly get out ahead of them. 

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Tagged with: water contamination, water, waste, fracking

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