Water utility expert expresses concerns about the risks of hydraulic fracturing

The American Water Works Association is an international nonprofit educational association dedicated to being an authoritative resource for knowledge, information, and advocacy for improving water quality and supply.

A July 2011 article in Opflow, an AWWA publication, asks the question: "Hydrofracking: Is it Worth the Risk?"  The environmental manager for the Ft. Smith Utility in Arkansas writes about the risks of hydraulic fracturing when it comes to protecting drinking water supplies. Some of his key points:

  • There is a regulatory void in most states, and current measures fail to consider all potentially harmful effects of fracking.
  • High volume fracking and horizontal drilling can pose unacceptable threats to drinking water supplies.
  • Concerns include large water withdrawals, industrial-strength waste that exceeds current existing waste management capacity, and spills and accidents,
  • Fracking uses vast quantities of water and could intensify drought during dry periods.
  • Many of the chemicals used in fracturing fluid may cause serious health risks.

His final conclusion: "A water utility with a groundwater or surface water supply and associated watersheds located in a shale-gas formation should be concerned about potential effects natural gas drilling projects can have on its water supply."