Fracking May Bring Contaminants to Drinking Water
However, for those who get their drinking water from private wells rather than a public utility, there could be a cause for concern where their water is coming from.
In their study, Jasechko and Perrone found that approximately half of all hydraulically fractured wells stimulated in 2014 exist within two to three kilometers of one or more domestic, public and self-supply groundwater wells.
They were also able to identify 236 counties where most recorded domestic groundwater wells exist within two kilometers of one or more recorded oil and gas wells producing during 2014.
Their analysis of hydraulic fracturing operations assessed wells likely stimulated in 2014, whereas their analysis of oil and gas wells assessed wells producing hydrocarbons in 2014.
“This co-location [of hydraulic fractured and domestic groundwater wells] emphasizes the need to determine the frequency that hydraulic fracturing activities impact groundwater well-water quality.
“Our results underscore the importance of increased water-monitoring efforts near both hydraulically fractured and conventional oil and gas wells in ascertaining the risk of contamination and in protecting water-well quality.” According to Jasechko and Perrone, quantifying and communicating risks of hydraulic fracturing to groundwater resources is challenging because of the lack of consistently cataloged information about the frequency and severity of spills and leaks linked to hydraulic fracturing, integrity of active and decommissioned wells and groundwater quality before vs. following the initiation of a hydraulic fracturing operation and environmental profile, including toxicity of chemicals used for oil and gas production.
“Our analysis underscores the need to increase monitoring efforts to maximize the probability that we can identify well waters that may be impacted and do our best to remediate, contain and isolate potentially contaminated waters before they cause harm,” Jasechko said.
In this case, the problem is a lack of consistent data across states as well as across industries.
Quantifying and communicating actual risks remain challenging because of the lack of publicly available and consistently cataloged information.
As more shale oil and gas reservoirs become economically and technologically feasible to access with hydraulically fractured wells, understanding the frequency that groundwater resources are contaminated will be critical to allocating resources for safeguarding groundwater and addressing public concerns.