The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
5 Million Gallons of Freshwater Used to Frack Just One Well
A lot has been said about the toxic slurry of fracking fluids and its impact on water quality, but what about the millions of gallons of water that's sucked up by the drilling process and its impact on water quantity?
A new study highlights how the five million gallons of freshwater used to fracture just one gas well in the U.S.—or more than enough to fill seven Olympic-size swimming pools—has depleted water levels in up to 51 percent of streams in Arkansas, as Motherboard reported from the research.
The paper, published in the American Chemical Society's journal Environmental Science & Technology, also finds that high-volume, short duration water withdrawals used for fracking fluids creates water stress to aquatic organisms in Fayetteville Shale streams.
These streams—which also supply drinking water to thousands of people in the region—are home to 10 aquatic species that are declining at a concerning rate, according to a release on the study. Depending on the time of year, freshwater usage for fracking could potentially affect aquatic organisms in 7 to 51 percent of the catchments, the research team found. Even if 100 percent of the fracking wastewater were recycled, between 3 to 45 percent of catchments could still be affected.
In the summer especially, drawing out millions of gallons of water from a stream for fracking fluids likely has a significant impact on stream temperatures and stream flow, which affects aquatic insects, fish and bottom-dwelling mussels, the study said.
The purpose of the study is to flesh out the potential impact of fracking on streams around the Fayetteville Shale play, an active gas field in Arkansas where more than 5,000 gas wells were drilled using fracking techniques between 2004 and 2014.
But the task wasn't exactly simple. As Motherboard reported, the researchers "could not obtain detailed data on how much water was pumped from which stream and when."
"Little is known about how much water can be withdrawn from these streams without impacts on fish and other aquatic species," lead author Sally Entrekin, a biologist at University of Central Arkansas, told the publication.
"We don't know if there has been an impact on the streams because there isn't any site-specific monitoring," she added.
The researchers concluded that more accessible and precise withdrawal and streamflow data are critical moving forward to assess and mitigate water stress in streams that experience high-volume withdrawals.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Genna Reed
The EPA announced last week that it is issuing a preliminary regulatory determination for public comment to set an enforceable drinking water standard to two of the most common and well-studied PFAS, PFOA and PFOS.
This decision is based on three criteria:
- PFOA and PFOS have an adverse effect on public health
- PFOA and PFOS occur in drinking water often enough and at levels of public health concern;
- regulation of PFOA and PFOS is a meaningful opportunity for reducing the health risk to those served by public water systems.
By Kieran Cooke
Driving an electric-powered vehicle (EV) rather than one reliant on fossil fuels is a key way to tackle climate change and improve air quality — but it does leave the old batteries behind as a nasty residue.
Finance ministers from the 20 largest economies agreed to add a scant mention of the climate crisis in its final communiqué in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Sunday, but they stopped short of calling it a major economic risk, as Reuters reported. It was the first time the G20 has mentioned the climate crisis in its final communiqué since Donald Trump became president in 2017.