Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department
BS in Environmental Management and Protection
The following study examines hydraulic fracturing operations in the United States in relation to groundwater contamination, withdrawals of freshwater resources, and jurisdictional authority over the activity with the purpose of producing objective analysis of research findings. With a growing population and increasing energy needs, hydraulic fracturing is expanding across the nation, as is public concern over the risks to freshwater resources. Because of the difficulty in identifying non-point sources of water pollution, a lack of legitimate water samples representing baseline conditions, and incomplete lists of chemical additives used, study results are often inconclusive as to the correlation between hydraulic fracturing and groundwater contamination. However, there is a higher likelihood of groundwater contamination caused by poor wastewater disposal and management practices. The impact of large withdrawals of water from a watershed varies between regions and while millions of gallons of freshwater per day used in hydraulic fracturing may not affect a watershed in a region with relatively high rates of annual precipitation, these withdrawals can have an adverse impact on remote and sensitive areas. The Environmental Protection Agency has never had jurisdiction over hydraulic fracturing except when diesel fuel is used; however, further research may prompt new legislation allowing the agency to oversee the activity.