Water

Unconventional oil and gas development requires extraordinary amounts of water during the extraction process. In 2019, fracking operators used an average of 14 million gallons of water per well, with the maximum amount reaching 39 million gallons for a single well. After being pumped underground to “frack” oil and gas wells, water is called “flowback,” and includes naturally occurring underground brine water– which contains dangerous levels of radiation, heavy metals, and other contaminants — mixed with the fracking chemical-laden fresh water that has been pumped into the well. The chemicals used in the fracking process are known carcinogens, while others remain entirely secret, even to the personnel in the field who are employed to use the additives. 

Flowback is disposed of by injection into underground wells, in water treatment plants, or in open air pits. Each of these disposal methods comes with enormous risks, such as contamination of drinking water sources, fresh water contamination, inducing seismic activity in the case of underground injection, human exposure to radioactivity, and increased traffic needed to transport produced water. Sometimes produced water is treated to remove some of the fracking chemicals and reused in the fracking process, but this accounts for only a portion of fracking water given that fresh water is cheaper to procure.

Shockingly, some states allow for fracking wastewater to be treated and used for agricultural purposes, for road spreading, or for commercial sale in products such as pool salts, increasing exposure pathways to toxic chemicals.

Explore these issues in depth in the FracTracker articles and maps below.

FracTracker Water Articles

Mapping gathering lines in OH and WV feature

Mapping Gathering Lines in Ohio and West Virginia

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As a spring 2020 intern with FracTracker, my work mostly involved…
Oil & Gas waste tank operated by SWEPI and Enervest at the Hayes pad, Otsego County, Michigan May 21st, 2016

The North Dakota Shale Viewer Reimagined: Mapping the Water and Waste Impact

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We updated the FracTracker North Dakota Shale Viewer with current…
FracTracker Falcon Pipeline spills map
Bushkill Falls PA

Fracking Water Use in Pennsylvania Increases Dramatically

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Unconventional wells in Pennsylvania were always resource-intensive,…
Overhead view of injection well

The Hidden Inefficiencies and Environmental Costs of Fracking in Ohio

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Ohio continues to increase fracked gas production, facilitated…

Fracking in Pennsylvania: Not Worth It

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Despite the ever-increasing heaps of violations and drilling…
Captina Creek Watershed FeaturePhoto by Ted Auch, FracTracker Alliance

Fracking Threatens Ohio’s Captina Creek Watershed

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FracTracker's Great Lakes Program Coordinator Ted Auch explores…

Want Not, Waste Not? Fossil Fuel Extraction’s Waste Disposal Challenges

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Pennsylvania's fracking industry is producing record amounts…
Ohio Secret Fracking Chemicals Report
https://www.kvpr.org/post/dormant-risky-new-state-law-aims-prevent-problems-idle-oil-and-gas-wells

Idle Wells are a Major Risk

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Designating a well as "idle" is a temporary solution for operators,…
DOGGR

Literally Millions of Failing, Abandoned Wells

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By Kyle Ferrar, Western Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance In…

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