(WESTERVILLE, OH — January 31, 2012) The National Ground Water Association today issued a series of principles for policymaking aimed at protecting groundwater in areas of the United States experiencing increased oil and gas development using hydraulic fracturing.
“The greater use of horizontal wells and the hydraulic fracturing technology has the potential to significantly expand natural gas and oil supplies, and hold down prices,” NGWA states in a new position paper. “However, concomitant with this enhanced production is the increased possibility for groundwater contamination, and other impacts to drinking water supplies, if best practices and proper procedures are not used, and if appropriate regulations are not in place.”
Hydraulic fracturing is a petroleum industry process in which fluids, commonly made up of water and a small percentage of chemical additives, are combined with sand and pumped at very high pressure into a geologic formation holding oil or gas. The resulting fractures allow the release of the oil or gas, which can be collected. NGWA recommends that policies be put in place and enforced, if they are not already, that promote:
- Disclosure of all chemicals used in the oil or gas well hydraulic fracturing process to the appropriate governmental entity
- Proper construction and regular maintenance of oil or gas production wells to prevent the migration of natural and injected fluids that could endanger current or future drinking water sources
- Best management practices or appropriate regulations to address surface spills and waste management related to hydraulic fracturing
- Development of water supply plans in areas where water is scarce or the potential for water use conflicts exist.
NGWA also says more study of potential impacts to groundwater used for drinking water supplies is warranted given the proliferation of horizontal wells and hydraulic fracturing.
“NGWA recognizes that hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells is a mature technology and has been a widespread practice for many decades. While no widespread water quality or quantity issues have been definitively documented…NGWA believes additional studies, research and monitoring related to the potential for groundwater contamination from the installation, hydraulic fracturing, operation, and maintenance of oil and gas wells are needed,” NGWA’s position paper states.
Other NGWA policy recommendations include:
- Proper construction and regular maintenance of water wells, including in areas of oil and gas well installation
- Using certified laboratories to test water wells in proximity to oil or gas development prior to and after drilling and/or hydraulic fracturing
- Development by state agencies of a recommended list of water testing parameters to assist household and public water system owners
- Establishment of integrated groundwater monitoring programs using dedicated wells at the regional and local scale to establish baseline conditions
- Monitoring, financial responsibility, and liability provisions related to oil and gas development that are cognizant of the actual travel-times observed in natural hydrologic systems.
“The need for increasing the nation’s energy supplies exists concurrently with the need to ensure adequate freshwater for drinking, food production, manufacturing, and ecosystem support,” NGWA concludes.
NGWA, a nonprofit organization composed of U.S. and international groundwater professionals — contractors, equipment manufacturers, suppliers, scientists, and engineers — is dedicated to advancing groundwater knowledge. NGWA’s vision is to be the leading groundwater association that advocates the responsible development, management, and use of water.