Fracking Is Depleting Drinking Water and Replacing It With Toxic Waste at Catastrophic Rates

Hydraulic fracking is sucking up drinking water and replacing it with toxic waste, having a catastrophic impact on water supplies across the US, according to a recent study.

Researchers analyzed six years of data on water from more than 1,200 wells that are used by the oil and gas industry. The researchers then modeled future water use and wastewater production. The models predicted increases in water used and wastewater volume by 2030, as much as 50 times more in unconventional gas producing areas and 20 times more in unconventional oil producing areas.

The findings of the study suggest that fracking is using much more water than it was before, and taking out a huge chunk of the supply of drinkable water.

Fracking has been found to contaminate drinking water. Many people who live near fracking sites have been able to set the water and air that comes through their pipes on fire.

The abstract of the study reads:

“Unconventional oil and gas exploration in the United States has experienced a period of rapid growth, followed by several years of limited production due to falling and low natural gas and oil prices. Throughout this transition, the water use for hydraulic fracturing and wastewater production in major shale gas and oil production regions has increased; from 2011 to 2016, the water use per well increased up to 770%, while flowback and produced water volumes generated within the first year of production increased up to 1440%. The water-use intensity (that is, normalized to the energy production) increased ubiquitously in all U.S. shale basins during this transition period. The steady increase of the water footprint of hydraulic fracturing with time implies that future unconventional oil and gas operations will require larger volumes of water for hydraulic fracturing, which will result in larger produced oil and gas wastewater volumes.”

After the water is exposed to the chemicals involved in fracking it is nearly impossible to treat to make it drinkable again.

“In addition, the water used for hydraulic fracturing is retained within the shale formation; only a small fraction of the fresh water injected into the ground returns as flowback water, while the greater volume of FP water returning to the surface is highly saline, is difficult to treat, and is often disposed through deep-injection wells. This means that despite lower water intensity compared to other energy resources, the permanent loss of water use for hydraulic fracturing from the hydrosphere could outweigh its relatively lower water intensity,” the study says.



Image: “Fracking” by Anarchimedia is licensed under CC BY 2.0