Southeastern Section - 63rd Annual Meeting (10–11 April 2014)

Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 2:00 PM


BLANKENSHIP, Carrie N.1, LAWLESS, Michael D.2 and NEWCOMB, William D.2, (1)Environmental and Waste Resource Management, Draper Aden Associates, 2206 S. Main Street, Blacksburg, VA 24060, (2)Draper Aden Associates, 2206 S. Main Street, Blacksburg, VA 24060,

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of eastern U.S. shales (e.g., Marcellus shale in the regional Appalachian Basin; Sanford sub-basin of the Deep River Basin in central North Carolina) is underway or under consideration as a means to enhance unconventional methane recovery. Fracking is a controversial procedure due to land disturbance, potential impacts to water quantity and water quality, and flow-back water management. However, domestic energy sources present significant value to the United States in terms of managing energy costs and energy security. Paramount to the question of whether states like Virginia and North Carolina (as well as New York) should allow fracking (and the linked technology of directional drilling) involves the management of water resources for private and public welfare.

A series of fracking jobs at a directionally drilled gas extraction well field may consume millions of gallons of water. Some of the water is returned to the surface as “flow back”, and may be recycled at the well pad for additional fracking jobs. Nonetheless, fracking requires a large volume of water, and this impacts local and state water supply planning efforts.

Virginia has required all local governments to prepare a water supply plan for integration into a State Water Supply Plan. North Carolina passed legislation in 1989 mandating a state and local water supply planning process. The most recent edition of North Carolina’s Water Supply Plan is dated January 2001. Both Virginia and North Carolina require the Water Supply Plan to be reviewed and revised periodically.

Some in the energy industry have expressed concerns that fracking could be headed for a rapid demise if environmental concerns (including water management) are not addressed. Without fracking, economics likely preclude shale gas extraction in the eastern U.S.

This presentation explores the nexus between fracking and water management, and provides recommendations for local and regional water supply planning. In particular, a critical component of Virginia and North Carolina’s water supply plans includes drought response contingencies. We note that drought conditions in 2012 reduced water use for fracking in Pennsylvania, a state that is leading the eastern U.S. shale-gas revolution.