I enjoyed reading Natalie Cherot’s article on hydraulic fracturing for many reasons. Perhaps most importantly, Ms. Cherot covered details that are often not revealed to the public. For instance, how did she (or the Environmental Defense Center) learn that Occidental Petroleum used 360,000 gallons of water in the Rincon Hills effort in May of 2011? Although this appears to be a large amount of water, this value is much lower than what has been reported for wells in the Marcellus Shale. Many Marcellus wells require more than a million gallons per fracking event. Water requirement issues are not yet receiving a lot of press. Appropriate water supply management should be just as important as the potential chemical emission concerns, especially since many local supplies (e.g., Ventura and Santa Ynez Rivers, local groundwater basins, etc.) are already experiencing shortages and could become casualties in the impending water wars.
Continuous monitoring should be required for potential impacts to local water supplies as well as potential hazardous releases. New sensor technologies exist for automated monitoring, quality control, and emergency response. How can we integrate these types of technologies into the regulatory framework before the law of unintended consequences once again rules the day?
Mark Kram is a hydrogeologist and recipient of the National Ground Water Association's 2011 Technology Award