Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Regina Apone makes this connection here…

The Race is On to Clean Up Hydraulic Fracturing” is about the widespread use of fracking and the risk it is posing to human health and pollution. This article was published in the New York Times on December 4, 2012 and was written by Erica Gies. The hydrology issue being reported is the risk hydraulic fracturing is posing to our drinking water supply, ground water contamination and the massive amounts of water being used. This issue is also important to hydraulics as the widespread use of fracking is due to technology in drilling horizontally deep below the surface of the earth. Gies reports on the broader context of new emerging companies and their clean up solutions. Ecosphere Technologies of Florida uses ozone to clean the water in a process called advanced oxidation. Executives claim water is 100 percent recyclable after oxidation process. Water Tectonics of Washing uses electric current to bind together contaminant particles. These particles can then be filtered from the water. In just two years this company has tripled in size due to the need for water cleanup. Gasfrac of Canada is using a patented liquid petroleum gas gel instead of water as the main fracking fluid. When the rock is cracked the liquid fuel vaporizes and returns to the surface with the natural gas. Although this article reveals the general process of hydrofracking, it does not thoroughly depict the actual amount of chemicals that go into the ground.  It would also have complimented the piece if Gies had explained the process of how these chemicals get into the ground water and then into our drinking water supply a well as other ways these chemicals and hydraulic fracturing are harming the environment. Gies could also have explained how hydraulic fracturing can be done correctly with hydraulic engineers involved in design and present at drilling sites.


Figure 1 – Hydraulic fracturing process diagram

                Economically this article is very current and appropriate to water resources engineering.  It is estimated that by 2020, 260 billion gallons of water will be used. There will be new companies trying to come up with ways to clean this water. Environmentally this is at utmost importance due to the threat hydraulic fracturing is posing to the environment and our health. Water resources engineering is related because of the water resources systems being utilized in fracking. It will be important to see how WRE will play a role in using these new company’s ideas to protect the environment while implementing hydraulic fracturing worldwide. The Environmental Protection Agency has an appropriate case study involving interviews with 50 state and local government agencies about how hydraulic fracturing has adversely affected their drinking water wells. The EPA analyzes potential impacts on underground sources of drinking water from the injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into well.