How Fracking Affects Our Water
Susan L. Brantley, 2023 Michel T. Halbouty Distinguished Lecturer
“Fracking” of horizontal layers of shale at great depths has ushered in a new era of energy development in the USA. At the same time, shale-gas development has impacted water quality in some locations. In the mid-2000s, public outcry about “fracking” and water quality reached a fever pitch. Today, the pushback continues but is more muted. In this talk I will look at what has been learned over the last two decades about water impacts related to shale gas development (including fracking), with emphasis on both geospatial analysis as well as case studies. Much of this talk will focus on Pennsylvania, a state with the longest history of commercial oil extraction in the world, but some observations will also be made about the national situation. Government, universities, and private industry must work more closely with communities to document impacts and understand case examples of water contamination. Only with such approaches will geologists and hydrogeochemists enable the public to make educated decisions about the “social license” for the industry at the same time that our practitioners learn to understand the public’s viewpoint on this distributed industry.