What Happens to the Water? Assessing Water Quality in Areas with Hydraulically Fractured Oil and Gas Wells
Jennifer LaVista ( Phone: 303-202-4764 );
More data and research are necessary to best understand the potential risks to water quality associated with unconventional oil and gas development in the United States, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey study.
“We mined the national water-quality databases from 1970 - 2010 and were able to assess long-term trends in only 16 percent of the watersheds with unconventional oil and gas resources,” said Zack Bowen, USGS scientist and principal author of the article that appears in American Geophysical Union’s Water Resources Research. “There are not enough data available to be able to assess potential effects of oil and gas development over large geographic areas.”
There is not a national water-quality monitoring program in place that focuses on oil and gas development, so existing national water-quality databases and data on hydraulic fracturing were used to assess water-quality trends in oil and gas areas. The study found no widespread and consistent trends in water quality, such as chloride and specific conductance, in areas where unconventional oil and gas wells are prevalent. The amount of water-quality samples, where they are located and the varying constituents that are measured are limiting factors in existing national databases.
Hydraulic fracturing is presently the primary stimulation technique for oil and gas production in low-permeability, unconventional resource reservoirs. Comprehensive, published and publicly available information regarding the extent, location and character of hydraulic fracturing and potential effects on regional or national water quality in the United States is scarce. More information can be found on the USGS frequently asked questions on hydraulic fracturing.
While the earth contains enough potash to meet the increased global demand for crop production and U.S. supplies are likely secure, some regions lack potash deposits needed for optimal food crop yields. According to a recent USGS global assessment of potash resources, the costs of importing potash long distances can limit its use and imports are subject to supply disruptions.
“Global scarcity is not the issue with potash – transportation costs are,” said USGS scientist Greta Orris, who led the assessment. “We chose to assess potash because it is used primarily for fertilizer and with the increasing global population, the need for agricultural lands to be increasingly productive will continue,” said Orris.
The U.S. imports more than 80 percent of the potash it uses, mostly from the Elk Point Basin in Saskatchewan, Canada. The Elk Basin is the world’s largest source of potash, having provided at least 20 percent of the world’s potash supply for nearly 40 years.
The U.S. produces potash from deposits in Utah and New Mexico. While production from the Michigan basin recently ceased, a large potash resource exists there. Production and development of resources in Michigan have been hindered by low potash prices, dated production equipment, and poor transport infrastructure amongst other factors. A significant potash resource in Arizona has also been identified, but resources in other states tend to be relatively small.
This global assessment, which includes a summary report and accompanying database, is the most complete, up-to-date, GIS-based, global compilation of information on known and potential potash resources from evaporite sources. The database includes more than 900 known potash deposits with measured resources. It also outlines 84 tracts throughout the world where undiscovered future resources might be found.
“A significant finding of this assessment is that there appears to be little to no potential to develop potash mines in either China or India, where large populations create the need for highly productive agricultural land, which in turn requires large amounts of appropriate fertilizers,” said Orris. “High import costs have resulted in lower usage of potash fertilizers than commonly seen in the U.S., and the potential for the land to be less productive.”
Potash includes a variety of minerals, ores, or processed products that contain potassium, one of three primary plant nutrients essential for growing food crops and biofuels. Modern agriculture requires large quantities of potassium so crop production is adequate to feed a growing population as arable land acreage becomes more limited. While potassium can be derived from other sources, conventional potash deposits – those formed by evaporation -- are the only cost- effective source for large quantities of potassium needed for high-yield agriculture.
The known deposits include location, geology, resource, production and other descriptive information. Potash-bearing basins may host tens of millions to more than 100 billion metric tons of potassium. Examples include Elk Point Basin in Canada, the Pripyat Basin in Belarus, the Solikamsk Basin in western Russia, and the Zechstein Basin in Germany.
The biggest potash producers are Canada, Russia, Belarus, and Israel. In addition to China and India, other areas lacking conventional deposits include much of Africa, Australia, and South America.
For the 84 tracts, the quantities of undiscovered resources are not estimated in this report. Instead, the tracts are classified into six categories that rank their potential to provide potash resources in 25 to 50 years based on known resources in the tract, level of available information, and whether geologic or other deficiencies, such as lack of water, power, or other infrastructure, could prevent or delay development of deposits. Potash tracts that may have potash deposits in production within the next five years include those in Ethiopia and the Republic of Congo.
More information on global and domestic potash, including demand, production, and uses is available from the USGS.
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be holding the next National Advisory Council (NAC) public meeting in New Orleans, LA from March 4 - 5, 2015.
WHAT: NAC Meeting
WHERE: Jackson Barracks
6400 St. Claude Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70117
WHEN: March 4 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (CST)
March 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (CST)
LARAMIE, WY — Seeking insights to help moose, elk, mule deer and bighorn sheep populations, researchers from the University of Wyoming, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Geological Survey and other partners will spend much of March capturing animals on their winter ranges in western and southern Wyoming.
Members of the public will have an opportunity to closely follow the work.
As scientists did during deer captures earlier this winter, researchers with the UW-headquartered Wyoming Migration Initiative (WMI) and personnel from Game and Fish plan to live-tweet the approximately three weeks of research activity and provide Facebook posts about the animal captures multiple times a day.
The tweets will be by WMI Director Matt Kauffman, a UW professor and U.S. Geological Survey scientist. Game and Fish biologists and wardens collaborating on these studies also will tweet from @wgfd. All updates will use the hashtags #wyodeer, #wyomoose, #wyoelk and #wyosheep. Included in the tweets will be maps and data graphics from the forthcoming “Atlas of Wildlife Migration,” a partnership effort with the University of Oregon InfoGraphics Lab cartographers. The USGS, tweeting from @usgs and @USGSCoopUnits, will help promote the discussion to a broader national audience.
WMI’s Facebook page is at www.facebook.com\migrationinitiative. Game and Fish is at www.facebook.com/WyoGFD. The photos, videos, updates and Twitter feed will be posted to a dedicated WMI webpage, www.migrationinitiative.org/capturelivetweetmarch2015.
“Capture and GPS-collar efforts are the primary tools researchers use to study these iconic animals and their movements,” Kauffman says. “Wyomingites care deeply about these herds and the habitats they occupy, so it’s a great opportunity for us to give them, and people beyond Wyoming, a closer view of how and why we are doing this research.”
“Many of these studies have been ongoing for several years in remote and hard-to-access areas of Wyoming. They are used to make important decisions about wildlife management,” says Game and Fish Communications Director Renny MacKay. “Social media allow us to give the public a new look at this valuable research.”
The eight studies that are part of this month’s field work are:
- Elk migrations into and out of Yellowstone National Park have been of interest for decades, and new GPS radio collar technology has advanced the mapping of these routes. The Wiggins Fork herd is the last gap in a detailed ecosystem-wide map of Yellowstone’s elk migrations. To fill that gap, researchers will capture and collar elk north of Dubois starting the week of March 2.
- Nutrition and behavioral response of moose to beetle-killed forest in the Snowy Mountains. The mountain pine beetle epidemic has transformed forested habitats in this range, with uncertain consequences for one of Wyoming's newest moose herds. Moose will be captured and collared March 5-9 between Centennial and Saratoga to assess nutrition and population growth, and to compare current moose movements to those from a pre-beetle kill study conducted in 2004-05.
- Researchers will capture deer March 10 near Pinedale to evaluate how habitat conditions and human disturbance affect fat levels of deer wintering on and near one of the largest natural gas fields in Wyoming.
- The nutritional dynamics of the famous Wyoming Range mule deer herd. The March 11 deer capture near Big Piney will continue to look at how many deer this range can support. The next step will be to track fawns to measure survival and cause of mortality.
- It is unknown how drought affects mule deer as they migrate -- and forage -- from low-elevation winter ranges to mountain summer ranges. This March 12-13 capture between Kemmerer, Cokeville and Evanston will help shed light on whether warming influences summer forage quality, and ultimately the survival and reproduction of migrants.
- The March 14-15 capture near Rock Springs aims to help advance the understanding of the benefits of migration and guide management and conservation of a spectacular 150-mile deer migration from the Red Desert north of Rock Springs to summer ranges in northwest Wyoming.
- This March 18 capture of elk between Baggs and Saratoga in the Sierra Madre Mountains is part of an assessment of elk movements before, during and after massive tree fall caused by mountain pine beetles.
- The interaction of nutrition and disease in bighorn sheep. Pneumonia in bighorn sheep continues to affect their population dynamics, yet it is unknown how ecological conditions affect susceptibility to disease. The March 19-21 capture of bighorns from three herds near Jackson, Dubois and Cody will investigate how nutrition interacts with disease to affect bighorn populations.
Kauffman says the WMI research team -- which also includes UW’s big game nutrition expert, Kevin Monteith; Western EcoSystems Inc. researcher Hall Sawyer; and Yale University biologist Arthur Middleton -- will provide information on the objectives of each study, and what has been learned from ongoing research, through photos, short video interviews, maps and graphics. They’ll also tweet links to existing papers, reports, news articles, interviews, YouTube videos and other information relevant to each study.
Funding for these projects is made possible through extensive collaborations among state and federal managers, sportsmen’s groups, nongovernmental organizations and private foundations. Additional partner details will be shared through Twitter and Facebook as the work progresses.
The public -- and other groups interested in the research -- are encouraged to add comments via Twitter or Facebook throughout the roughly three-week research effort.
CORVALLIS, Ore. — Greater sage-grouse nests found in natural gas development areas where mitigation actions were taken to minimize development impacts had slightly higher nest survival than similar areas where such actions were not taken, according to research by U.S. Geological Survey and others.
This site-scale study, conducted in a coal-bed methane area of the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, showed that enhanced mitigation efforts somewhat increased the probability of at least one sage-grouse egg hatching per nest in a particular nesting season.
Mitigation techniques are actions taken to avoid, minimize or offset the impacts of human activities on an ecosystem or a species, such as minimizing sagebrush removal and using remote monitoring of wells to reduce vehicle traffic.
The article, co-authored by the Big Horn Environmental Consultants, Boise State University, and USGS and published in the journal Wildlife Biology, looks at the application of science-based on-site mitigation techniques and sage-grouse nest survival in the Intermountain West.
“High nest survival is critical to the species’ continued existence,” said USGS emeritus scientist and co-author Dr. Mark Fuller. “These are ground-nesting birds that produce on average 6-10 eggs each year. Their nests are vulnerable to predation and other factors, making it difficult for the greater sage-grouse populations to maintain numbers.”
From 2008 to 2011, scientists monitored 296 greater sage-grouse nests in a coal-bed methane development where Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management, applied mitigation measures above and beyond base mitigation measures to determine if these measures would reduce negative impacts to greater sage-grouse. The base mitigation measures are required by the BLM in its 2003 Environmental Impact Statement for the Powder River Basin.
Over a 362-square-mile area, researchers measured nest survival in areas where the enhanced mitigation measures were applied, areas where only base techniques were used and in relatively unaltered areas without oil and gas development. Nest survival was determined by the evidence of at least one successfully hatched egg per nest, a standard measurement in avian scientific studies. Multiple studies have shown that poor nest survival rates can dramatically limit population growth in sage-grouse. Key findings include:
- Estimated nest survival rates were highest in unaltered areas with no oil or gas development (64 percent), next highest in areas where enhanced mitigation techniques were used (59 percent), and lowest in areas where base mitigation practices were used (54 percent).
- Of the mitigation measures implemented, piping discharge water to a treatment facility instead of constructing an on-site reservoir for produced waters had the greatest positive benefit on sage-grouse nest survival. Retention reservoirs result in direct habitat loss, may facilitate the spread of sage-grouse predators, and increase habitat for mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus, thus expanding sage-grouse exposure to this disease.
- Reducing surface disturbance, particularly sagebrush removal, was also an important factor in nest success. The importance of sagebrush cover to sage-grouse nest survival is well known.
“In asking the question, does on-site mitigation reduce impacts of development on greater sage-grouse, we found that properly targeted mitigation can benefit greater sage-grouse nest survival in energy development areas,” said Chris Kirol, a research biologist with Big Horn Environmental Consultants and lead author of the study. “However, we also found that nests located in areas outside of energy development had the highest survival rates. Our results can help inform future adaptive management and greater sage-grouse conservation efforts in sagebrush habitat affected by energy development.”
Sagebrush habitat is increasingly being developed for oil and gas resources, and land managers face complex challenges in balancing energy demands with conservation measures for sagebrush-dependent species such as the greater sage-grouse. Agencies responsible for managing sagebrush habitat and greater sage-grouse populations encourage the use of adaptive management measures, such as science-based mitigation during oil and gas development and operations. Adaptive management is an approach for improving resource management by learning from and incorporating previous management outcomes into present plans.
Greater sage-grouse occur in parts of 11 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces in western North America. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is formally reviewing the status of greater sage-grouse to determine if the species is warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
ATLANTA– People who live in Cheatham County including Pegram, Kingston Springs; Williamson County including Fairview, Franklin, Brentwood; and Dickson County, Tenn., are invited to look at newly revised preliminary digital flood insurance rate maps at a public open house on March 3, 2015. Flood maps show the extent to which areas are at risk for flooding, and are used to help determine flood insurance and building requirements.Language English
Deadline nears for DNREC grants aimed at helping Delaware schools, businesses and institutions with recycling programs
DENTON, Texas ––In early July, new flood maps for Natchitoches Parish will become effective.
Local, state and federal officials encourage everyone to view the maps before Monday, July 6, 2015 in order to understand their flood risk and then consider buying flood insurance.
DENTON, Texas ––In early July, new flood maps for Pulaski County will become effective.
Local, state and federal officials encourage everyone to view the maps before Monday, July 6, 2015 in order to understand their flood risk and then consider buying flood insurance.
DENTON, Texas –– New flood maps become effective in Pittsburgh County on June 2, 2015.
Local, state and federal officials encourage everyone to view the maps before Tuesday, June 2, 2015 in order to understand their flood risk and then consider buying flood insurance.
DENTON, Texas —The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is now accepting applications for its Youth Preparedness Council. The Council supports FEMA’s commitment to involving young people in preparedness-related activities and provides an opportunity for them to offer their perspectives, feedback and insights on how to help make the United States more resilient.