Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2014OH316B

Surface water quality and ecosystem health with shale energy development

Institute: Ohio
Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-03-01 End Date: 2015-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $29,967 Total Non-Federal Funds: $79,654

Principal Investigators: Elizabeth Toman, Jiyoung Lee

Abstract: The development of shale energy in Ohio and throughout the world has dramatically increased in recent years without full understanding of the impacts to surface water quality and, in turn, total ecosystem health. Shale energy exploration and extraction activities, including the construction and traffic use of access roads and well pads, can produce sediment that may runoff to surface waterbodies. Sediments carry metals, chemicals, and nutrients that when released may disrupt aquatic microbial communities and encourage the growth of toxic algae. Besides the disturbance to aquatic ecosystems, increased sediments and associated algae, especially blue green algae, may affect the health of terrestrial systems as humans and animals interact with surface waters. This research will identify the impacts of shale energy development to surface water quality and ecosystem health through monitoring suspended sediment and microbial communities in paired watersheds in Noble County, Ohio. The difference in measurements of indicator data taken through the development of a shale energy well in one of the watersheds and the same measures in the control watershed will be compared to baseline data to detect changes. The results from this project will help potential leasing landowners, land managers and energy companies as they consider the best options for the sustainable development of shale energy.