Background Readings

Water Quantity



Because the Marcellus Shale is a tight rock formation, 4 to 7 million gallons of water are required to fracture each well. That sounds like a lot of water to be drawn from smaller tributaries around the Susquehanna River basin, especially when you consider that almost 2,000 wells were permitted for drilling in 2009 (DEP Bureau of Oil & Gas Management)!

So who regulates how much water can be used? How is the amount of water that can be safely withdrawn determined? How does the gas industry’s water use compare to other industries, or recreational uses in Pennsylvania?

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

  1. Water Withdrawals for the Marcellus Shale Development in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State University, 2010.

  2. Natural Gas Well Development in the Susquehanna River Basin (SRBC fact sheet).

  3. Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Extraction Study 2009-2010. Study Guide II. Marcellus Shale Natural Gas: Environmental Impact. The Pennsylvania League of Women Voters.

  4. “Fish Habitat and Flow: What's the Connection?”, by Leroy M. Young, Angler & Boater, March/April 2001.

  5. “The Science Behind Water Management. Forum Shares the Latest in Understanding Threats to the Susquehanna River.”, By Pat Devlin Oct 18, 2013.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What impact would the removal of 4 to 7 million gallons of water have on:

    • Water levels in a pond or lake?
    • Flow rates in a river or a stream?
    • Water temperature or dissolved oxygen concentrations?
    • Visit SRBC’s Remote Water Quality Network Website to view real-time water quality data at several streams in the Susquehanna watershed.
  2. How might the removal of 4 to 7 million gallons of surface water change the quality of the habitat for the animals/plants that live within a waterway?

  3. Does surface water use for the natural gas industry vary across the Marcellus Region? Use USGS’s water use data for mining activities (Table 11, 2000 and 2005) to compare the annual volume of water withdrawals in PA, NY, OH, and WV.