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

The New York Times article entitled “As Fracking Increases, So Do Fears About Water Supply,” was written by Kate Galbraith and published on March 7, 2013.  This article relates to the water resource engineering domain of both hydrology and hydraulics by talking about the demand of water and the movement of groundwater.  This article is about the straining of aquifers as a result of fracking for oil in southern Texas.  Fracking uses an incredible amount of water to pump oil out of the ground; this water comes from the local aquifers that can produce high quality water.  As a result of the high demand for water by both the residents of southern Texas and the fracking business local aquifers haves seen water production fall by approximately two-thirds in some areas.  In the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer fracking has decreased the amount of water by about one third the aquifers recharge.  To combat this problem the industry is trying to use brackish or recycled water.  Brackish water is not as cost effective and may result in the damaging of equipment.  In 2011, only about one-fifth of the water-fracking used came from the brackish water.  Companies are continuing to put in research for the expanded use of brackish water and advancements may be seen in the near future.   In the textbook Wurbs and James (2002), it was emphasized that aquifer depletion is a serious concern when the discharge out is greater than the recharge.  In the hot and dry Texas climate it is a very delicate balance between recharge and discharge in the aquifers and needs to be carefully maintained.  According to the USGS, pumping can also affect the depth of the water table which can also cause water production to decline.  After reflecting on this article, I think the article left out how much of the water from the aquifer residents of southern Texas use.

Water resources engineering is an interdisciplinary field where both economical and societal impacts need to be considered in both the design and implementation of different projects.  Before using the ground water for fracking companies should have analyzed its effect on the local aquifers.  They should have made certain that there would be leaving enough water for residents to use without depleting the ground water.  This article also relates to economics.  Companies have to invest into new technologies to use brackish water.  Also residents may depend on the water for their plants and/or businesses. This article’s context area is all communities affected by fracking.  This affects all communities with fracking because companies are trying to find way to use brackish water and not local water from aquifers.  In a community in Wyoming fracking caused pollution of aquifers as found by the EPA.

 

Figure from NYTimes article of water pumped by windmill being collected in basin

References:

Wurbs, R.A., James, W.P., 2002. Water Resources Engineering. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle

River, NJ

“Aquifers.” And Groundwater, from USGS Water-Science School. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.

“MNN – Mother Nature Network.” MNN – Mother Nature Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.

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