North-Central Section - 49th Annual Meeting (19-20 May 2015)

Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM


FERNANDEZ, Julianne M., BERLING, Kevin and TOWNSEND-SMALL, Amy, Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45219,

In contrast to domestic or thermoelectric water withdrawals, when water is withdrawn for fracking, it cannot be returned to the local water supply. We conducted a preliminary analysis of water use and surface water inventories in the Utica Shale drilling region of southeastern Ohio. The total volume of freshwater and recycled water (if any) used to drill each well was obtained from Information on the proposed water source for each natural gas well was obtained from the drilling permits from the State of Ohio. Most water withdrawals are from small streams, reservoirs, and ponds within the same county or in an adjacent county. No examples were found of direct water withdrawals from large water resources such as Lake Erie or the Ohio River, despite the study area being entirely within the Ohio River watershed. Water volume and source data were compared to local water resource availability, and volumes of freshwater and recycled water used were compared with the estimated amounts.

In 2014, Belmont County predicted the total volume of freshwater withdrawals for natural gas production to be 545,960,000 gal, comparable to the 536,360,706 gal of fresh water actually withdrawn for this use. Data indicates that the 2013 total freshwater withdrawal (16,927,168 gal) from Captina Creek in Belmont County is 0.05% of the 2013 average drainage (37,420,000,000 gal/year). Fracking companies proposed to reuse 3,250,000 gal of recycled fracking wastewater water in the county; however, the total volume reported of recycled water used is zero. This may be due to well companies not reporting these values to FracFocus.

The expanding drilling activity within Belmont County, Ohio will increase the demand for water supplies. The consumption of surface water withdrawals from drilling has potential to impact the surrounding environment. Decreasing water volumes can affect the abundance of wetlands, which are an important buffer to sustain sensitive habitats, such as those along Captina Creek. Therefore, it is important to monitor the utilization of freshwater supplies for environmental, public, and natural gas production. Further research is necessary to illustrate the current impact of freshwater withdrawals from increasing gas production on surface water volumes.