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Changes in Stream-Water Quality Attributed to Coalbed Methane Development in northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana –The USGS, in cooperation with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Water Management Bureau, analyzed data collected between 1980 and 2010 at 16 sites in the Tongue and Powder River Basins in northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana. Three sites on the Powder River show a difference in water quality between the time prior to coalbed methane development and during the production period; however, thirteen other sites, including mainstem and tributaries to the Tongue and Powder, showed few substantial differences in water quality between the two time periods. Water-quality of coal-bed methane produced water is of concern because of potential effects of sodium on agricultural soils and potential effects of bicarbonate on aquatic biota. (Press release; Report)
Domestic Wells Sampled in Marcellus Shale, Wayne County, Pennsylvania –USGS, in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey (Pennsylvania Geological Survey), provides a groundwater-quality baseline for Wayne County, Pennsylvania prior to development of the natural gas resource in the Marcellus Shale. The Marcellus Shale is currently (2014) being developed elsewhere in Pennsylvania for natural gas. All residents of largely rural Wayne County rely on groundwater for water supply, primarily from bedrock aquifers (shales and sandstones). Water samples were collected from 34 domestic wells during August 2011 and August and September 2013 and analyzed for 45 constituents and properties, including nutrients, major ions, metals and trace elements, radioactivity, and dissolved gases, including methane and radon-222. The quality of the sampled groundwater was generally within U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) drinking-water standards, although in some samples, the concentrations of a few constituents exceeded USEPA drinking-water standards and health advisories. (Open-File Report to be released online in Summer 2014 by Ronald A. Sloto, and titled "Baseline groundwater quality from 34 wells in Wayne County, Pennsylvania, 2011 and 2013". Read about findings for a similar study completed in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania).)
Brine-Contaminated Groundwater in Northeastern Montana –USGS, in cooperation with the Fort Peck Tribe, reports on the extent and movement of contamination in the East Poplar oil field area in northeastern Montana. The contamination in shallow groundwater and the Poplar River is brine, which is saltier than seawater and is a byproduct as part of the process of extracting crude oil in the East Poplar oil field. Findings show that brine contaminated groundwater is generally moving towards the southwest, eventually discharging into the Missouri River. For more than half a century, millions of gallons of brine have been produced along with oil from the East Poplar oil field on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Until recently, the waste brine was placed in pits and ponds or injected into the ground through deep disposal wells and has made its way to the shallow groundwater and the Poplar River. Currently, the only approved method of brine disposal is to inject it deep into the ground. When the brine mixes with the groundwater in the area, it often makes the water unsuitable for domestic purposes. Currently, treated water from the Missouri River about 20 miles upstream of the city of Poplar is piped to the city and nearby residents. This information is used by the Fort Peck Tribes to direct future natural resource conservation efforts. (Report; Press Release)
Groundwater Potential Mapped in the Susquehanna River Valley, New York –USGS, in cooperation with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, assessed and mapped a variety of aquifer types and described their current use and potential as groundwater sources in the valley-fill aquifer along a 32 mile reach of the Susquehanna River valley and adjacent areas was evaluated in eastern Broome and southeastern Chenango Counties, New York. The study area includes part of south-central New York that has substantial natural gas potential in the underlying Marcellus and Utica shale formations. Findings help managers make decisions on future groundwater use and protection. (Press release; Report and interactive map)
Water Quality in the Fayetteville Shale Gas-Production Area, North-Central Arkansas –USGS, in cooperation with the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission, Duke University, Faulkner County, Shirley Community Development Corporation, and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, examined water quality in 127 shallow domestic wells in the Fayetteville Shale natural gas production area of Arkansas and found no groundwater contamination associated with gas production. Scientists analyzed water-quality data from samples taken in Van Buren and Faulkner counties in 2011, focusing on chloride concentrations from 127 wells and methane concentrations and carbon isotope ratios from a subsample of 51 wells. Chloride is a naturally occurring ion that is found at elevated levels in waters associated with gas production. Chloride moves easily through groundwater without reacting with other ions or compounds in solution, which thereby makes it a good indicator of whether chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing are reaching groundwater. In this case, the chloride concentrations from this study were not higher than samples taken from nearby areas from 1951 through 1983. Methane is the primary component of natural gas, but also can be found naturally in shallow shale formations in the Fayetteville Shale area that are used as sources of water for domestic supplies. What methane was found in the water, taken from domestic wells, was either naturally occurring, or could not be attributed to natural gas production activities. (Full report; Press release)
Few Changes Noted in Stream-Water Quality from Coalbed Natural Gas Development in Wyoming and Montana –USGS, in cooperation with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, reported minimal changes in stream quality in northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana from 2001 to 2010. USGS stream monitoring for effects from coalbed natural gas development began in 2001, showing some changes in the quality of stream water over time. However, because multiple factors can affect stream-water quality, or because changes also were seen in sites upstream from the development, the reason for the trend could not be determined. (Report; Press release)
New reports on Groundwater-Quality Sampling Near Pavillion, Wyoming –USGS sampled two deep monitoring wells for groundwater-quality, quality-control, and well yield data f near Pavillion, Wyoming at the request of the State of Wyoming and in coordination with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Groundwater-quality samples were analyzed for water-quality properties; inorganic constituents including naturally occurring radioactive compounds; organic constituents; dissolved gases; stable isotopes of methane, water and dissolved inorganic carbon; and environmental tracers. Consistent with a cooperative agreement with Wyoming, the USGS did not interpret data as part of this sampling effort. Results are being provided to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, EPA and the public. The first USGS report describes the sampling and analysis plan developed by the USGS in consultation with an interagency technical team which included representatives from the State of Wyoming, EPA, and the Northern Arapahoe and Eastern Shoshone Tribes. A second report provides the raw data and information from the groundwater-quality samples. (Press release)
Dissolved Methane in New York Groundwater –USGS, in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, sampled groundwater from more than 200 wells across New York State and found levels of naturally-occurring methane high enough to warrant monitoring or other actions in nine percent of the water samples tested. In the state of New York, an estimated six million people get their drinking water from groundwater. The findings of this study highlight the importance of well owners understanding the source and quality of their drinking water. Methane in groundwater has been much in the news on account of the potential association with unconventional energy development, but methane also occurs naturally in some groundwater systems. With ongoing unconventional gas development in Pennsylvania and surrounding states and possible unconventional gas development in New York State, knowing the current quality of groundwater is important to establish baseline water-quality conditions for individual and public water-supply wells. (Report; Technical announcement)
Summary of Studies Related to Hydraulic Fracturing Conducted by USGS Water Science Centers –Of recent importance is the issue that involves impacts of oil and gas production and hydraulic fracturing on groundwater and surface-water quantity and quality and ecosystems. "On-the-ground" projects are currently proposed or ongoing in more than 15 States, designed with cooperators and partners, and in large part supported by jointly funded projects with localities, States, and Tribes through the Cooperative Water Program (as well as projects with other Federal agencies). In general the projects help to establish baseline water quantity and quality measurements and assessments as natural gas exploration and production accelerates among different geologic and environmental settings across the U.S. Such understanding is critical to protect sources of water used for drinking and to sustain ecosystem health in our Nation's streams, lakes, and reservoirs.
Sodium Bicarbonate Associated with Produced Waters from Coalbed Gas Production May Impact Aquatic Life in Basins in Montana and Wyoming –USGS, in cooperation/partnership with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, assessed potential effects of coal-bed natural gas production and elevated sodium bicarbonate concentrations on 13 aquatic species in the Tongue and Powder River Basins. Salts such as sodium bicarbonate are found naturally in the water along the coal-bed natural gas seams. When excessive amounts of this water are discharged into freshwater streams and rivers, however, the results can adversely affect the ability of fish and other aquatic organisms to survive. (Report; Press Release)
New Water Quality Data Repository in Colorado –As large-scale energy development continues in the Piceance Basin in northwestern Colorado, there is potential for changes in surface-and groundwater resources. USGS, in cooperation with over 25 entities created a public, web-accessible common data repository combining water-quality data from various sources to establish a baseline assessment of the region’s water resources. Collaborative partners supporting the project include the energy industry, local citizens, cities and counties, state agencies, the Bureau of Land Management, private consultants, the West Divide Water Conservancy District, and the Colorado River Water Conservation District. The data will be used to develop regional monitoring strategies needed to fill identified data gaps, and minimize redundancies in current and future water-resource monitoring.
Groundwater sampled in Lee and Chatham counties, North Carolina before shale gas exploration – USGS, in cooperation with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment, will begin sampling and testing water from public and private wells in Lee and Chatham counties, North Carolina for baseline information because of potential for shale gas exploration in these areas (Press release; Study Area Map; More detail). The baseline data collected from both private and public water supply wells will be used by state and local agencies to identify background concentrations of major ions, metals, volatile organic compounds, methane gas, and stable isotopes in the aquifer prior to increased shale gas exploration in North Carolina. If shale gas exploration occurs, this data will be used to compare to post-drilling water-quality samples.
Effects of coalbed natural gas development on ecological conditions in selected streams in Wyoming and Montana –A USGS study, done in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management, Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, and Wyoming Game and Fish Department, evaluated the effects of water produced from coalbed natural gas development on biological communities—aquatic insects, algal, and fish—in selected streams in the Powder River basin in Wyoming and Montana.