Background Readings

Water Quality: Drinking Water



Now that you’ve investigated the potential impacts of natural gas drilling on aquatic life, let’s consider the quality of another type of water: drinking water. Many of the rural landowners in Pennsylvania rely on private wells for their drinking water. Between the chemical additives used in water for hydraulic fracturing and natural gases (like methane) released during the drilling, landowners living near active drilling sites are concerned about how natural gas drilling might affect their drinking water supplies. For example, several landowners in the town of Dimock, Pennsylvania found methane gas in their private wells after companies drilled for natural gas in the surrounding area (see “Dark Side of the Boom” below). While the connection between drilling and well contamination has not been proven, the landowners are now drinking bottled water, rather than water from their private wells.

Is drinking water contamination a valid concern? Read the articles and watch the video below to learn more.

Background Resources: (Each reading opens a separate window.)

  1. Read the following articles and watch the Youtube video to learn more about the potential effects of hydraulic fracturing on private drinking water supplies.

  2. Worries Over Water as Natural Gas Fracking Expands. (NPR Morning Edition, August 2, 2011)

  3. Dark Side of the Boom, by Jad Mouawad and Clifford Krauss, NY Times, December 7, 2009.

  4. Evaluation of Impacts to Underground Sources of Drinking Water by Hydraulic Fracturing of Coalbed Methane Reservoirs: National Final Study Final Report, US EPA, 2004.

  5. Gas Well Drilling and Your Private Water Supply, Pennsylvania State University

Discussion Questions:

  1. What types of pollutants could be found in a drinking water well near a drilling site?

  2. Is drinking water pollution from hydraulic fracturing of gas wells a significant threat?

  3. What steps can be taken to protect your private well water supply if you or one of your neighbors signs a gas lease?