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[Editor's note: The tremendous amount of water needed for hydraulic fracturing, anywhere between 1 to 8 million gallons of water per well with some wells being fracked up to 18 times, can have tremendous impact on local watersheds. The current drought more clearly shows that natural gas drilling is a non-sustainable energy practice that can significantly diminish our precious fresh water supply.]
The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) announced on June 28, that 37 separate previously approved water withdrawals are suspended due to localized streamflow levels dropping throughout the Susquehanna basin in Pennsylvania and New York.
Under SRBC’s passby flow restrictions, when streams drop to predetermined protected low flow levels, operators who are required to meet the agency’s passby requirement must stop taking water. They cannot resume taking water until streams have recovered above the protected level for at least 48 hours. Where SRBC has determined that withdrawal quantities are insignificant compared to streamflows, approvals do not contain passby restrictions.
SRBC and its regulated operators monitor real-time streamflow data generated by stream gages maintained and operated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). In 2012, SRBC’s passby requirements were initiated as early as February for certain water withdrawals in northern Pennsylvania.
Regulated operators are required to install tamper-proof water meters that automatically record their water withdrawals on a daily basis. SRBC also monitors the USGS gages daily to determine which ones are below protective thresholds, and SRBC’s field staff conducts frequent unannounced inspections to verify compliance with passby requirements.
SRBC’s existing passby restrictions are based on a 2003 policy. For several years, the agency has been working to incorporate scientific advances in ecosystem flow protection that would improve low flow protection standards associated with approved water withdrawals.
The suspended withdrawals are operated by 22 companies. For a complete list, click here.
This spring, SRBC released a proposed Low Flow Protection Policy for public review and comment. SRBC proposes to use the policy and supporting technical guidance when reviewing withdrawal applications to establish limits and conditions on approvals consistent with SRBC’s regulatory standards. The proposed policy, its associated technical guidance and options for submitting comments electronically are available on SRBC's website. SRBC is encouraging the public to provide written comment on the proposed Low Flow Protection Policy by July 16.
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