The Effects of Fracking on Water Quality & the Environment

Worried about fracking in your community? We discover what dangers might be lurking under the ground…


Water is as natural to earth as it is to the human body. It is one of the simplest yet most important molecular compounds found naturally on the planet. The possible uses for water are extensive. However, none of those uses are as imperative as water’s role in human hydration. Drinking water is necessary for humanity to survive. Throughout history, technology has allowed drinking water to be more and more accessible for people. But there is an industrial process that threatens the availability of safe drinking water for people. This process is controversially being used globally by companies looking to profit from nature itself.

The process of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is a technique used by many companies to stimulate geothermal wells to maximize extraction of natural gases and other natural products. The process itself involves the use of highly pressurized water that is combined with sand and various chemicals such as methanol, isopropyl alcohol, or ethylene glycol among a few. This mixture then becomes fracking fluid. This fluid is blasted into well-bores to forcefully create cracks in rock formations deep below the earth’s surface. These cracks then become the pathway for the extraction of byproducts. It might seem an effective way for companies to utilize initially, but the process of fracking itself and the procedures used by companies have many negative effects on the environment.

fracking diagram
The primary purpose of fracking is to increase the rate at which natural substances such as water, petroleum, and natural gases can be recovered from subterranean porous reservoirs. It is used to stimulate groundwater wells and also to measure stresses in the earth. Many companies also use fracking in dealing with wastewater such as hydrocarbon wastes by injecting them deep underground into the earth. Some other more unconventional uses of fracking may include electricity generation, induction of rock cave-ins for mining, and geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide.

Although some of these purposes may seem necessary, they don’t negate the tremendous effects fracking has on the environment. These effects are highly negative and dangerous. The act of fracking itself, as well as the injection of wastewater back into the underground, has been shown to increase micro-seismic activities along dormant and even unknown fault lines. In short, fracking has caused micro-earthquakes. But the injection of wastewater back into the earth has been shown to have caused earthquakes up to a magnitude of over 5.0 on the Richter scale in some US states. In addition, the chemicals used for fracking may have immediate and dangerous health effects upon short-term or long-term exposure. There is a large risk for air emissions and escape of greenhouse gases such as methane during the extraction process in fracking, and air pollution is one of the biggest causes of health problems in the world today. Also, the process of fracking itself requires millions of gallons in water consumption. This level of consumption is just way too high, especially for some areas that are prone to drought. There is just too much water that gets wasted in the process of fracking.

fracking problems
Most of the water used in fracking ends up becoming wastewater. Some is put away into man-made ponds, while some gets injected back into the underground, a process that is a danger itself. Still, other waste-water is treated in facilities and eventually put back into rivers. This is not good for communities that rely directly on flowing river water for drinking water. Even for communities that don’t, most drinking water systems are somehow connected to rivers. In addition, most water treatment facilities are not equipped to remove all of the toxic compounds that come from fracking fluid and into wastewater. Some of these compounds are carcinogenic in nature and can pose a threat to people’s health. In addition, pressure from the injection of wastewater can cause further cracking in rock layers beneath the earth’s surface, which can then accelerate the migration of such dangerous waters into drinking water aquifers. The pollution of water is too risky, and water contamination is ultimately inevitable with fracking. The contamination of groundwater, which is the main source for spring and well drinking waters, is also an effect of fracking. The danger fracking poses on drinking water is serious and can even be life threatening.

There may be one day when fracking activity can be monitored closely and be made safer for use. But for now, the risks of fracking are just way too many to be taken lightly. With the increase in number of drilling and fracking sites, more people are at risks from site accidents and exposure to harmful elements. The planet itself suffers from the effects of fracking. Unless these risks can be controlled and eliminated, fracking is one technological advancement that we just can’t afford to use.

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