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Ohio Utica Shale

Water for drilling may create long-term water supply problems

By Bob Downing Published: December 13, 2013

From the FreshWater Accountability Project Ohio on Thursday:

GRAND RAPIDS, OH (December 12, 2013) A report just issued from FracTracker, a data gathering and dissemination organization, supports concerns that water profiteering from sales of millions of gallons by the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) in SE Ohio can create long-term water supply problems. According to the FracTracker initial study results found at, “The sustainability of the watershed’s freshwater stocks and flows is of concern to many, given climate trends and the fact that the MWCD, according to their website, is ‘…awaiting results from a U.S. Geological Survey analysis of water availability at several other reservoirs before deciding whether to approve a growing number of requests for water by other drilling companies.’”



By this time next year, researchers predict that 12.4% of regional water supplies needed for average human usage will go to fracking. "The true effects of the MWCD’s decision to make fracking the pre-eminent goal of the District has chained the future of the entire watershed to the destruction of the lakes and longtime industries such as recreation and agriculture they have supported," stated Lea Harper, Chair of the FreshWater Accountability Project Ohio ( and founder of the Facebook organization, Southeast Ohio Alliance to Save Our Water (SOASOW). "The MWCD, without properly elected public representatives and almost no accountability, has become a welfare department and chamber of commerce for a single industry - fracking - which threatens the air, water and property values in the region for a very long time to come. They are making their private profits at public expense."


"The water consumed by the fracking industry is a one-time, consumptive use of water," Harper continued. "For the most part, because the freshwater taken from streams, private wells, ponds and reservoirs is not recycled, what is extracted and used for fracking is never returned to the hydrologic cycle again. The brine that returns to the surface after fracking is so toxic and radioactive it cannot be used ever again for human, animal or even another industrial use. It must be disposed of in deep injection wells or treated and returned to surface water, risking contamination with toxins and radioactivity. The small amount of brine that is recycled becomes even more concentrated with radioactivity and toxic chemicals. It is not a fair comparison to look at water usage of other industries, like irrigation for golf courses or farming, because at least that water is not made so toxic it must be removed forever from the hydrologic cycle.”


The recent report issued by FracTracker states: “According to our analysisof 306 drilling, drilled, or producing OH Utica gas wells, the hydraulic fracturing process requires on average 4.6-4.8 million gallons of water per well(2). This is equal to 2.8-2.9 billion gallons of water to-date for the watershed’s 613 wells or 4.5-4.7 billion gallons across the state’s currently permitted 985 wells.”


“The true effects of the MWCD’s decision to support fracking at the expense of all other water needs in the area is even more alarming because windfall profits are being made by a single, highly unregulated agency, for a single, highly unregulated industry,” observed Lea Harper. “Combine this with other private and public water sales that are taking place along with Antero’s proposed pipeline to extract almost 5 million gallons a day from the Ohio River, and the region has a perfect storm brewing for future water shortages, loss of environmental flow and severe contamination problems with the water that remains.”


Water costs are already going up in the conservancy district, and there are plans for more rate increases. This is to be expected as freshwater supplies in Ohio are consumed in significant amounts, such as the MWCD’s water sales to Antero. Approximately two million gallons a day is being sold from Seneca Lake for fracking at .425 cents per gallon – a cut rate price for valuable freshwater that can never be reused or replaced. Even so, the conservancy district stands to make $8,500 per day just from selling reservoir water, netting about $782,000 for three months of water sales just from one reservoir. The MWCD has sold water from other reservoirs in the district as well and has plans to sell more despite public protest and research that urges water conservation.


FWAPOH continues to work with FracTracker and other organizations to document the water destruction by the fracking industry and alert Ohioans to the damage being caused by the only industry exempted from important provisions in federal Safe Drinking Water and Clean Water Acts. Ohio’s water is being taken for a temporary, out-of-state, global multi-national industry aiming to export gas and other products extracted, leaving Ohioans with considerably less groundwater and surface waters. What is left of freshwater supplies is being put at risk for toxic and radioactive contamination. Years later, when the industry boom is over and profits are spent, what is left underground in the fracking long laterals or disposed of in injection wells can migrate into groundwater aquifers and reservoir surface waters, contaminating public and private drinking water supplies.


“By putting regional water supplies at risk, the conservancy district betrays the doctrine of public benefit that was used to justify the tax assessment by the MWCD in 2005, and we believe, the original reason the land was deeded to the district,” Harper commented. “Ohioans need to get involved now to protect their water supplies if they don’t want to end up like Texans who are now paying dearly for the scarce, clean water they have left after droughts and the fracking industry and its water profiteers have destroyed so much.”


For more information, contact the FreshWater Accountability Project Ohio at, email, or call 888-287-6068.



See the most recent drilling report and an injection wells map From
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Utica and Marcellus shale web sites

Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.