A report issued by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) this week finds no “discernible impacts” to the quality or quantity of water in the basin due to shale development. This report offers yet another rebuke to activists who have claimed that fracking is substantially depleting water sources, or contaminating water, in Pennsylvania and across the country. Specifically the agency stated,
“Generally, the quantity of the Basin’s water resources are sufficient in magnitude to accommodate the water demands of the industry concurrently with other water users currently operating within the Basin.”
“Concerns related to the impacts to water sources are focused on the timing and location of the withdrawals and are adequately addressed by the low flow protection measures and other protective operating conditions.”
Further it found that,
“To date, the Commission’s monitoring programs have not detected discernible impacts on the quality of the Basin’s water resources as a result of natural gas development.”
The report analyzed data from July 2008 until December 2013, a period of time when the Marcellus Shale industry was most active in Pennsylvania. Unlike other industries that begin reporting withdrawals to SRBC at a certain gallon amount, any water used in the natural gas development process must be reported beginning with the very first drop. The report found that total consumptive water use from the industry during this five and a half year period was 13.4 billion gallons, but explained that while this amount may sound significant,
“the average daily usage rate of approximately 6.7 million gallons per day (mgd) during that same period was comparable to other water users within the Basin.”
SRBC also offered examples of other industries’ uses to give some perspective to the daily amount of withdrawals:
“For example, manufacturing-related activities consumptively used an average of 8.6 mgd of water while entertainment and recreational water users (amusement parks, golf courses, and ski areas) consumed on average approximately 6.2 mgd. Electric power generators, including nuclear power plants, consumed an average of 86.2 mgd and constituted the largest consumptive water use sector within the Basin.”
The agency’s finding that there have been no impacts to the quality of the water in the basin as a result of natural gas development follows an SRBC report issued last year that had similar findings. That report looked at data from continuous monitoring SRBC implemented in 2010 through 2013 to determine that there were no correlations between watershed impairments and Marcellus Shale development.
So not only have CO2 emissions in Pennsylvania fallen 30 percent thanks to fracking, but now the agency that oversees the waterways in northeastern Pennsylvania, in some of the most heavily drilled counties in the state, has found that the Commonwealth’s water quality and quantity is not being impaired by fracking either. All in all, that’s great news coming out of the Mighty Marcellus.