Cooperative Water Program
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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.