The topic of hydraulic fracturing will not soon leave the headlines… in so long as stories like this keep happening. Shortly after a gas company began trying to extract natural gas from a shale formation in Michigan it experienced problems similar to those experienced by local residents with drinking water wells located near the hydraulic fracturing site.
Water pressure dropped at the fracking site and negatively interfered with the drilling process. Coincidentally, water pressure dropped for local residents and they also started noticing a milky appearance to the water coming out of their wells.
Related incidents or not related incidents?
Some argue that the two sets of events have nothing to do with one another and that both sets of wells suffered as a result of serious drought conditions rather than because the hydraulic fracturing activity required a large (several million gallons) amount of water.
Others argue that the hydraulic fracturing activity caused the aquifer level to drop by an estimated 11 feet, not the lack of rainfall. These same folks do not discredit the notion that drought conditions played a part, but they quickly reference other hydraulic fracturing sites where gas companies began drilling… and ran out of water.
Did you say millions of gallons of water?
Yes. It takes millions of gallons of water to perform hydraulic fracturing and typically that water will come from water wells drilled by the gas companies or from other local sources such as municipalities with pre-existing water wells supposedly large enough to bring up enough water to accommodate the drilling activity as well as their customer base.
Moral of the story?
As usual we suggest watching the activities of the drilling companies very closely. Their desire to extract natural gas from the ground seems to know no bounds… unless someone taps them on the shoulder and asks, “Um, excuse me. What exactly is it there that you are doing?”
For the details that sparked our decision to write this little blurb about hydraulic fracturing and its relationship with drinking water and the water in aquifers tapped by private wells, please refer to Residential Water Well Fails in Michigan After Fracking Begins Nearby.