Should the industry be allowed to withdraw water from streams having an “exceptional value” designation?

Water withdrawal for natural gas drilling is one of Pennsylvania’s tightly regulated processes. Depending in which part of the Marcellus Shale play the hydraulic fracturing operations are happening, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection require operators to seek approval before withdrawing or using any amount of water for unconventional natural gas development. Streams must meet certain flow rates and standards in order to be considered for withdrawal; and withdrawal from any streams designated “exceptional value” can only happen with the appropriate regulatory agency’s approval of the operator’s water management plan request.

There are also practices in place to reduce the amount of fresh water resources required for drilling operations, including the increased use of mine run-off water. In addition to saving money, this practice is cleaning up streams around Pennsylvania that have been damaged by acid mine drainage. It is also important to note how little of Pennsylvania’s water Marcellus Shale development requires in relation to other industries. A report by Accenture Consulting found that in Pennsylvania, “State annual consumption totals about 3.6 trillion gallons. The shale gas industry uses less than 0.2% of that for hydraulic fracturing.”