Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) techniques used during the development of shale gas wells require millions of gallons of water. In Pennsylvania, natural gas industry operators drilling in the Marcellus Shale use a mixture of recycled water from previous fracturing operations, and fresh water that comes predominantly from surface waters such as rivers. In the context of other water withdrawals, such as those for power plant cooling and public water supply, the quantity of water needed for hydraulic fracturing is not overwhelming. Still, concern remains over where and when these withdrawals will occur, and how they will be regulated. More information on water withdrawals in the Marcellus Shale region is available.
In this peer-reviewed study, published in Environmental Science and Policy, we examine hypothetical water withdrawals for hydraulic fracturing that could result from future shale gas development in the Susquehanna River Basin region of New York. Our results indicate that proposed water withdrawal management strategies, while protective, may not be better than simpler approaches. Overall, we support the idea that regulation of water withdrawals should be approached on a regional basis in which cumulative impacts are assessed and mitigated.