Monday, April 18, 2016

SRBC: Natural Gas Industry Used 13.4 Billion Gallons Of Water, Most From 4 Counties

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission Monday released a new report on consumptive water use by the natural gas industry which showed from July 2008 to December 2013 the industry used a total of 13.4 billion gallons of water from surface, ground and other sources averaging about 6.7 million gallons per day.
A total of 2,249 requests for consumptive water use withdrawals were approved by the Commission for natural gas drilling-related withdrawals with 4 counties accounting for 80 percent of the withdrawal approvals-- Bradford, Susquehanna, Tioga and Lycoming.
This compares to the average daily use of about 8.6 million gallons by manufacturing-related industries in the watershed and 6.2 million gallons per day by entertainment and recreational water users (amusement parks, golf courses and ski areas).
Electric power generators, including nuclear power plants, constitute the largest consumptive water use within the Susquehanna River Basin at 86.2 million gallons per day.
The primary objectives of the report are to 1) summarize the regulatory responses taken by the Commission to address this new and previously unfamiliar water use activity; 2) identify the water use characteristics of the industry operating within the Basin; and 3) assess how the Commission’s programs are influencing natural gas industry water use.
“The primary concern related to water needs for hydraulic fracturing has not been conflict between the industry and other human water needs, but rather for impacts to the Basin’s aquatic ecosystems,” states Andrew Dehoff, P.E., Executive Director of the Commission. “The Commission undertook incremental policy and regulatory adaptations to successfully address the potential for conflict between the industry and the local aquatic ecosystems for the protection of sensitive habitats and the Basin’s finite water resources.”
Of the total of 13.4 billion gallons, 9.76 billion gallons were from surface water sources, 1.97 billion gallons were indirectly withdrawn primarily from public water supply systems, 998 million gallons were groundwater withdrawals and 637 million gallons were from the capture of top-hole water and precipitation falling on drilling pad sites included in consumptive use reports filed by the industry.
Of the 13.4 billion gallons of water used, 865 million gallons came from direct withdrawals from abandoned coal mine discharges (34), use of wastewater treatment plant discharge water (3), or from other waters of lesser quality (13).
20 watersheds accounted for over 97 percent of the 9.76 billion gallons of surface water withdrawals.  The top 5 water withdrawal points were the main stem of the Susquehanna River, West Branch Susquehanna River, Wyalusing Creek, Tunkhannock Creek and Pine Creek, which account for two-thirds of the surface water withdrawals.
Of the 998 million gallons of groundwater withdrawals approved, 774 million gallons came from public water systems or third-party water purveyors.
There were 3,995 unconventional gas wells drilled and 2,860 fracked from 2005 to 2013 in the watershed.  DEP issued a total of 9,843 unconventional well permits in the watershed.
The long-term average water consumption for each well fractured during the reporting period was 4.3 million gallons.
SRBC also noted in the report--
-- Updated Regulations: The Commission updated its regulatory requirements for evaluating natural gas-related water withdrawal requests four times-- in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011-- and adopted consumptive use water fees to ensure the appropriate management controls were in place;
-- Low Flow Protection: A Low Flow Protection Policy was adopted in December 2012 to require passby flow protection measures;
-- Aquatic Resource Surveys: The Commission conducts aquatic resource surveys in connection with water withdrawal requests in exceptional value watersheds, where threatened or endangered species are present or likely to be, when the stream is in a headwater setting or when assessment data is not available;
--  Cumulative Impact Analysis: Water withdrawal analysis includes cumulative impact analyses related to multiple water withdrawals in a watershed;
-- Water Quality Monitoring: In 2010 the Commission established a Remote Water Quality Monitoring Network to provide real-time, continuous water quality monitoring in headwater streams for potential impacts from drilling operations.
The report included these conclusions--
-- Water Resources Adequate: Generally, the quantity of the Basin’s water resources are sufficient in magnitude to accommodate the water demands of the industry concurrently with other water users currently operating within the Basin;
-- Concerns About Impacts Are Addressed: Concerns related to the impacts to water sources are focused on the timing and location of the withdrawals and are adequately addressed by the low flow protection measures and other protective operating conditions; and
-- No Discernible Water Quality Impacts: To date, the Commission’s monitoring programs have not detected discernible impacts on the quality of the Basin’s water resources as a result of natural gas development, but continued vigilance is warranted.
Additional Actions
The Commission outlined a further set of actions it will take on natural gas industry water withdrawals--
-- Require More Sustainable Water Systems: Through future regulatory practices, encourage more robust and sophisticated industry-wide water delivery systems anchored in larger, more sustainable and uninterruptible water features of the Basin;
-- More Water Quality Monitoring: Enhance water quality monitoring and assessment methods to assist our member jurisdictions with ensuring preservation of the quality of the Basin’s water resources;
-- Use Technology To Improve Staff Effectiveness: Expand the use of technology to enable Commission staff to work more effectively and transparently and to be more responsive to inquiries from the general public and the regulated community;
-- Encourage More Use Of Waters Of Lesser Quality: Facilitate greater use of lesser quality waters within the Basin to reduce the reliance on higher quality streams and rivers; and
-- Encourage More Produced Fluids Reuse: Continue to encourage the incorporation of produced fluids into the industry’s water delivery system to decrease the need for future disposal of these  uids and to reduce the reliance on freshwater resources for future hydraulic fracturing activities.
A copy of the SRBC report is available online.
For more information on regulations, policies and reports associated with drilling activity, visit SRBC’s Natural Gas Shales and Natural Gas Well Development webpage.
SRBC Report: Drilling Didn’t Strain Water Supply In Susquehanna Basin

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