Balanced, Constructive Development: Aims and Product of the Working Group
The goals of this interdisciplinary group of ecologists, hydrologists and legal experts are:
- Spatially quantify the effects of current and proposed fracturing on water quality and quantity at a fine scale across the 48 contiguous United States.
- Assess the adequacy of water use and waste management plans to address fracturing effects on water resources and develop guidance for policy makers and regulators.
To achieve the first goal, the group will:
- Compile data on hydraulic fracturing wells including active and permitted wells, water and chemical use, and spill accident rates;
- Map and compare domestic, industrial and environmental demand for water with expected demand of shale development to identify conflict areas;
- Generate chemical risk maps for hazardous chemicals used and use simulation models to estimate extent and effect of spills.
Using the spatial results, the working group will identify sensitive plant and animal species and drinking water supplies potentially affected by changes in water quality and quantity. Finally, to achieve the second goal, the hydraulic fracturing working group will conduct a water-use and waste-management policy review and use the results to assess how well plans are prepared for the identified risks.
The working group will also establish a stakeholder advisory group to ensure that working group products will be applicable to industry and government users. Companies make investments in many activities — such as environmental impact assessments, biodiversity action plans, life-cycle assessments, and environmental management plans — to manage environmental and reputational risk. We expect that industry will use working group products to reduce risk of conflict and damage. Agencies and governments will be able to use these products to shape regulations, identify areas that may require additional resources, and strike a balance between conservation and development.
Due to differing reporting methods required by each state, it is usually hard to recognize spill patterns between states. To address this issue, the working group has standardized spill data across Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania and created a data visualization tool to bring together these data in an interactive format. This interactive spills data visualization tool allows for the exploration of the following factors: (1) when the spills are most likely to occur, (2) where the spills are most likely to occur, and (3) the underlying cause of the spill.
The interactive data tool allows state regulators and other stakeholders to identify trends in common pathways and causes, and pinpoint wells associated with unusually high spill rates. Better insight into the where, when and why spills occur will provide regulatory agencies and industry decision makers with important information on where to target efforts for locating and preventing future spills.
Explore the interactive spills data visualization tool
Meet the Team