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Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as “fracking,” is a new technology that is improving our lives and changing the way we produce oil and natural gas. Over the past few years, the United States has become the world’s largest producer of natural gas, and it is slated to overcome Saudi Arabia as the top oil-producing nation by 2017.
The increase in energy production is creating thousands of high-paying jobs, lowering the cost of natural gas (a big benefit for those living on a fixed income), and making the United States less reliant on energy from potentially hostile nations.
As with everything, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Although multiple sources (including Lisa Jackson, the former head of the EPA) have confirmed that hydraulic fracturing can be done in an environmentally responsible manner, there are still some concerns about how much water is used during the process.
In the Marcellus Shale of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, approximately four to five-million gallons of water are used to hydraulically fracture a natural gas well over the course of its lifetime. While this sounds like a lot of water, in water-rich areas like West Virginia and Pennsylvania, the amount of water used is relatively small compared to other activities such as public consumption, watering livestock, and other industrial uses.
Most of the water used to fracture the well stays deep underground after the fracking process, and away from drinking-water aquifers. The rest of the fluid, anywhere from six to 20 percent of the initial four million gallons, comes back to the surface. Most of this fluid is recycled and used at another well, saving energy companies’ money and reducing the amount of freshwater needed for the next well.
According to Downstream Strategies, over 80 percent of the water used in fracking in West Virginia and over 70 percent used in Pennsylvania comes from rivers and streams. While some environmentalists will try to make this sound scary, the amount of water used for fracking in Pennsylvania is about 1 percent of total surface water, and much less than the available groundwater in the state. Also, using surface water is consistent with common hydraulic fracturing practices around the nation. In fact, farmers in North Dakota prefer the water be taken from the Missouri River and not local groundwater aquifers.
While some environmentalists will make is seem like fracking operations are drinking the rivers dry, this is simply not the case. There is plenty of water to go around.
Hydraulic fracturing has provided the United States with an amazing opportunity. For the first time in decades the US is a leader energy production, creating thousands of good jobs for hardworking families, and making the US more energy independent every day.