Risks that Hydraulic Fracturing Poses to Water Sources

by Alex Frumkin

There has been a rapid increase in shale gas development in the united States due to the increase in use of hydraulic fracturing to access these shale beds. The rise of hydraulic fracturing has lead to intense public debates about the potential environmental and human health effects from hydraulic fracturing. Vengosh at el. (2014) identifies four potential areas of risks for water resources from hydraulic fracturing: contamination of shallow aquifers due to stray gas contamination, contamination of surface water and shallow groundwater from spills, leaks, and/or the disposal of inadequately treated shale gas wastewater, accumulation of toxic and radioactive elements in soil near disposal or spill sides, and the over extraction of water resources that could induce water shortages. To be able to fully understand the water contamination risks associated with hydraulic fracturing there needs to be an in depth investigation of the hydrology, hydrogeology, water chemistry, and isotopic tracers for identifying what the cause of the water contamination is. Continue reading