Is There Enough Water in Ohio For Fracking?

Environmental groups are warning that the amount of water required for fracking could threaten wildlife and public drinking water supplies.

"There isn't enough water to go around," says Lee Harper, a member of the Southeast Ohio Alliance to Save Our Water.

Government officials disagree.  They are working with oil and gas drillers to make sure that they get the water they need for shale exploration, according to a new article in the Columbus Dispatch.  More after the jump...

It can take as much as 5 million gallons of water to fully fracture shale and reap the rewards.  Ohio is a great source of gas, propane, butane, ethane, and oil - but not groundwater.  An analysis of "groundwater yield" shows aquifers in 12 counties in the Utica shale region produce a maximum 5 gallons per minute of water.  That analysis includes Carroll, Jefferson, and Harrison counties, where most of the new shale wells are.  That's not very much.

"Five gallons per minute is enough to run a household," said Mike Hallfrisch, water inventory and planning supervisor for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.  "You could run a shower, but you better not flush the toilet at the same time."

Thus, oil and gas companies are drawing waters from ponds and streams and cutting deals with local officials to utilize public reservoirs.  In Steubenville, Chesapeake Energy pays $5 for every 1,000 gallons of water it pulls from a reservoir filled with water from the Ohio River.

Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District officials say that 12 oil and gas companies have asked to draw water from six reservoirs it controls across eastern Ohio.  Sean Logan, the conservation chief, said his district will ask the U.S. Geological Survey to analyze how much "excess" water is there, and may approve more-urgent requests to tap reservoirs where it does not pose a threat to aquatic wildlife and recreation.

The oil and gas companies, for their part, say they take steps to ensure that they don't take too much water. They are trying to expand water-recycling efforts, and said that they take into account how much is needed for other consumers or users.

The state is also going to take further steps to assure that water supplies are accounted for.  A bill was introduced last week in the Senate which proposes new rules to better track where drilling operations get their water.

Meanwhile, a look at the water withdrawn for various uses during the Marcellus shale boom in Pennsylvania doesn't support environmentalists' and anti-drilling groups' claims that fracking threatens water supplies for everything else.  Fracking water withdrawals pale in comparison to how much water is needed for other uses.

Chart from

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