The water use to extract natural gas from shale is not sustainable!
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, water used to produce Barnett Shale gas in Denton County averages 2,226 gallons per million cubic feet of gas. There is no way to know for certain how much water is used for each well because, most often, the industry is not required to submit records. Estimates given by the industry itself say approximately 5 million gallons per fracture plus 1 million for drilling. These millions of gallons of fresh water are mixed with sand and a toxic chemical cocktail. That mixture is forced under pressure down the drilling hole to break up or fracture the shale where the gas is trapped. A percentage of this mixture stays underground to migrate who knows where. The rest returns to the surface bringing with it additional toxins such as radioactive waste and hydrocarbons from the shale. There are currently over 10,000 wells in North Texas with thousands more planned, and each well may undergo hydraulic fracture many times during the well’s lifetime. I’ve read that over 100,000 wells are planned in the Marcellus Shale.
But it gets worse: The water—hundreds of billions tens of trillions of gallons of fresh water—is polluted beyond use, and the portion that surfaces from the drilling hole, called flowback, is pumped into a disposal well deep into the earth under a “containment barrier.” This permanently removes the water from our hydrologic cycle, and therefore, unlike the water used in and around our homes, swimming pools and golf courses, it is unavailable for respiration, evaporation or future use by humans or animals. Disposal wells are poorly regulated in Texas and can cause water contamination.
While Texas remains in a persistent drought, natural gas producers are sucking dry every available source of water and ordinary citizens turn on the faucet to find their well has gone dry.
The following are notes from a talk by
Maude Barlow, Senior Advisor on Water to the United Nations and
author of Blue Covenant
at Cornell University, March 7, 2009
Our Water Commons: Toward a Rights-Based Solution to the Global Water Crisis
- 80% of worldwide deaths are caused by dirty water.
- Every 8 seconds a baby dies of waterborn disease. (HELLO? Choose Life people? Where are you?)
- Australia, Argentina, Iraq, Pakistan, Jordan, S. E. Asia, Nevada, California, Kenia, Spain are all running out of fresh water.
- The mistreatment, displacement and abuse of water is the major cause of climate change.
- T. Boone Pickens is buying the Ogalala to resell water to Fort Worth when the prices go up.
- Barlow believes that water should be a public trust as it is in Vermont and that water is different than anything else. It cannot be for profit!
- All people need safe, clean and public water. Bottled water should be banned, as Canada has done.
- For one year, it costs $1.88 to drink 8 glasses a day of tap water.
- For one year, it costs $2000 to drink 8 glasses a day of bottled water.
UPDATE: In reply to my email
Paul Hudak 12/5/2007 4:33:56 PM
Hello. Indeed, fracturing those wells does use large amounts of water. I have heard that the drilling companies tend use nearby water if possible, to avoid transportation costs. Thus, they may get the water from farm ponds or by pumping groundwater, often from the Trinity Aquifer.
Disposing used water into deep injection wells essentially removes it from the active hydrologic cycle. Conceivably, it could return to the active cycle at some very distant point in the future (speaking in geologic terms, well beyond human time frames.) This presumes no leakage through the well casing or nearby abandoned and unplugged wells, which could facilitate upward migration.
I’m not aware of any weather or climate impacts from using local freshwater resources to fracture gas wells. The bigger concern is perhaps putting additional strain on local water resources in the face of growing human population.
Dr. Paul F. Hudak
Department of Geography
University of North Texas
Water: Do not read if prone to despair
FACT: The World Bank says that by 2030 demand for water will outstrip supply by 40%…
The suffering behind that is absolutely unspeakable.
~Maude Barlow heads the Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest public advocacy organization, and is a founder of the Blue Planet Project.
Sunday was World Water Day.
Update 3: Industry is underestimating and underreporting water used for fracking
About Sharon Wilson
Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.
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thanks sharon, for this vitally important post, packed with invaluable information. we all need to be vigilant and proactive in protecting OUR water! there’s no act that follows when it’s gone.
I attended a special event yesterday in commemoration of World Water Day. It was sponsored by Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY. We viewed the documentary FLOW, an investigation into the world water crisis.
After the film, a panel spoke. Three out of the four panelists were inventors and engineers who had come up with small water purification devices which they said would help in third world countries- a noble idea. During the Q & A, I asked them to comment on the process of hydrofracking used in the natural gas industry and also injection wells which will put tons of unuseable water contaminated with toxic chemicals into the earth after drilling. One panelist did say that fluids put into the earth can and do seep upwards, but other than that general comment, none of the panelists seemed to even be familiar with hydrofracking and didn't know what I was talking about. It was depressing. The people in the audience were fascinated with the new devices that had been developed, but they don't know what is going on in their own backyards.
We, nor our children, nor their children, nor their children will see that water again.
Once gas drilling (of the type now being undertaken) moves in, your drinking water will begin to be ruined–and the damage will continue on and on forever!
I checked my garage and my bathroom cabinet. I’ve got every one of those “toxic cocktail” ingredients on hand. Some of them I even use to relax in the bathtub with. Wow!
You relax in a nice bath of benzene, toluene and xylene? Wow! Are you a mutant?
Hello, much of the water that is being drained from the coal or shale seam is often reasonably usable water and can be more effectively used to recharge shallower aquifers. There are various new aquifer recharge systems available such as "ARID Aquifer Recharge" which is an elegant system for injecting water into a qualifying shallow aquifer without ever bringing the water to the surface. Many Companies are now starting to use ARID aquifer recharge because in addition to being more environmentally friendly it is much cheaper to operate and eliminates the need to ever bring produced water to the surface. Google “ARID Aquifer Recharge” to learn more.
The Water Maps were created several years ago and do not take into account hydraulic fracturing.
Water 2025 is intended to focus attention on the reality that explosive population growth in western urban areas, the emerging need for water for environmental and recreational uses, and the national importance of the domestic production of food and fiber from western farms and ranches are driving major conflicts between these competing uses of water.
Today, in some areas of the West, existing water supplies are, or will be, inadequate to meet the water demands of people, cities, farms, and the environment even under normal water supply conditions
Water 2025 recognizes that state and local governments should have a leading role in meeting these challenges, and that the Department of the Interior should focus its attention and existing resources on areas where scarce federal dollars can provide the greatest benefits to the West and the rest of the Nation
Water 2025 is Reclamation's new initiative that recognizes the need for a vigorous public discussion over water issues. Water 2025 is a commitment to moving forward in strategically using the appropriate tools that will help minimize or prevent future water conflict and crises in the west.
Thank you for drawing attention to the water retirement issue. Molecules which have been around since the beginning, are being kidnapped, poisoned, and buried.
This world seems run by short term thinkers. Quarter to fiscal quarter. Poll to poll. Election to election.