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Can hydraulic fracturing impact the quality of groundwater or surface water?

Conducted properly, hydraulic fracturing has little possibility of contaminating water supplies. Properly constructed wells are intended to prevent drilling fluids, hydraulic fracturing fluids, deep saline formation waters, or oil and gas from entering aquifers. Carefully constructed and operated well sites have the ability to contain potential spills and minimize runoff into surface waters. However, oil and gas drilling in general is an industrial activity in which it is possible for accidents to occur that result in contamination of surface waters and near-surface aquifers.  In particular, the upward migration of fluids from deep formations to shallow aquifers can potentially occur via improperly constructed wells, where space may exist between the steel well casing (intended to protect drinking water resources) and the geologic formation.  In addition, improperly contained surface spills can potentially result in contamination of surface water bodies.

More research on hydraulic fracturing is underway, including a major study conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The USGS has a large role in a recent Memorandum of Agreement among the Department of the Interior, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency to improve our scientific understanding of the environmental issues related to unconventional oil and gas.



Learn more:

USGS Energy Resources Program main hydraulic fracturing page.

Water-Quality Topics: Hydraulic Fracturing

Science or Soundbite? Shale Gas, Hydraulic Fracturing, and Induced Earthquakes

Tags: Fracking, Hydraulic Fracturing, Oil and Gas Drilling