In February, residents of southern Stark County were surprised to find giant pumps sitting next to Indian Run, a small stream that flows into Sandy Creek.
A contractor was taking water from Indian Run for Chesapeake Energy and a nearby well in Osnaburg Township.
There was a water intake device in a small pool in the stream. There were two pumps and lots of hoses.
More recently, similar hoses were found in the Licking River near the Knox-Licking county line where Devon Energy, another driller, was taking 3 million gallons of water for its well fracking.
Water-hauling companies can simply put hoses into streams and take out large amounts of water for free. That’s because the waters in Ohio streams are considered a public resource that drillers and others can use for free if there is permitted access to the stream.
Companies hauling water to drilling sites do not need state permits in Ohio, but they must register with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources if the water withdrawals from streams exceed a state-imposed threshold. They must also provide a yearly estimate of how much water was removed from streams.
If the pumps can withdraw more than 70 gallons a minute or 100,000 gallons a day, they must register with the state’s Division of Soil and Water Resources.
But there are no limits on how much water can be pumped from Ohio streams by drillers.
There are several thousand registered parties in Ohio, and not all are drillers or water haulers tied to fracking, Lozier said.
The state says 1,216 facilities in 2010 used 839 million gallons of ground water per day, plus 719 facilities used 7.8 billion gallons of surface water per day.
The 2010 state data does not reflect drilling for natural gas in eastern Ohio, he said.
Ohio operates under a fair-use legal doctrine, state spokesman Ted Lozier said.
If the large-scale water removal causes problems downstream, landowners could sue to block such removals, he said.
Environmentalists are concerned that the impacts on small streams could be severe with repeated withdrawals and if there are droughts, said attorney Trent Dougherty of the Ohio Environmental Council.
— BOB DOWNING