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

For the Susquehanna River Basin Impacts Project

An Introduction to the Susquehanna River Basin Impacts Project

By the FracTracker Alliance In partnership with the Pennsylvania…

The Dakota Access Pipeline: An Uncertain Future

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By Kyle Ferrar, Western Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance Eliza…
Wastewater Disposal Facility in Colorado

Groundwater Threats in Colorado

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FracTracker has been increasingly looking at oil and gas drilling…
Mariner East 2 Pipeline Route

Mariner East 2 and Watershed Risks

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Mariner East 2 (ME 2) is a $2.5 billion, 350 mile-long pipeline…
Koontz Class II Injection Well, Trumbull County, Ohio, (41.22806065, -80.87669281) with 260,278 barrels (10,020,704 gallons) of fracking waste having been processed between Q3-2010 and Q3-2012 (Note: Q1-2016 volumes have yet to be reported!).

OH Class II Injection Wells – Waste Disposal Trends and Images From Around Ohio

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By Ted Auch, PhD – Great Lakes Program Coordinator The…
Flooded well and toppled oil storage tanks in Weld County, Colorado 2013. Rick Wilking/Reuters

Oil and Gas Flood Contamination Risk Incalculable on CO Front Range

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By Sierra Shamer, Visiting Scholar, FracTracker Alliance Historic…

Public Herald’s #fileroom Update

Crowdsourcing Digital PA Oil & Gas Data FracTracker Alliance worked with…
Landfill disposal of drill cuttings

Landfill Disposal of WV Oil and Gas Waste – A Report Review

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By Bill Hughes, WV Community Liaison As oil and gas drilling…
Injection wells in OH for disposing of oil and gas wastewater

Threats to Ohio’s Water Security

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Ohio waterways face headwinds in the form of hydraulic fracturing…
Bird’s eye view of a sand mine in Wisconsin. Photo by Ted Auch 2013.

West Central Wisconsin’s Landscape and What Silica Sand Mining Has Done to It

By Ted Auch, Great Lakes Program Coordinator, and Elliott Kurtz,…
Northeast Ohio Class II injection wells taken via FracTracker's mobile app, May 2015

OH Class II Injection Wells – Waste Disposal and Industry Water Demand

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By Ted Auch, PhD – Great Lakes Program Coordinator Waste Trends…
Mess is near Stone Lantz pad, WV. - Photo by Bill Hughes

Stream Crossings – Oil and water don’t mix

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By Bill Hughes, WV Community Liaison, FracTracker Alliance West…

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