New USGS Water Quality Tracking Tool for Rivers and Streams

The U.S. Geological Survey has developed a new online graphical data tool that tracks water quality in the nation’s rivers and streams.  The tool can be used to:

  • Compare recent water-quality conditions to long-term conditions (1993-2013) at each site,
  • Download water-quality datasets (streamflow, concentrations, and loads), and
  • Evaluate nutrient loading to coastal areas and large tributaries throughout the Mississippi River Basin.

The tool also provides annual summaries of nutrient and sediment concentrations and loading information that can provide water resource managers with timely information to track how loadings and concentrations are changing over time in response to nutrient reduction actions.  Graphical summaries are available for 106 river and stream sites monitored as part of the USGS’s National Water-Quality Network for Streams and Rivers.  Pesticide data will also be included in future updates.  To access the online tool, visit the USGS web site.

OIG Recommends EPA Action to Manage Potential Hydraulic Fracturing Impacts on Water Resources

On July 16, EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) published a report that shares findings from a review evaluating how the EPA and states use existing authorities to regulate the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on water.  The report findings are based on a performance audit that included a literature review and interviews with EPA, states, and stakeholders.  This included OIG interviews at EPA Headquarters, three EPA regional offices (3, 6, and 8), and three states (Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and Colorado).  During the interviews, OIG asked EPA and states questions about their respective programs that regulate the different stages of unconventional oil and gas development, ongoing initiatives to address potential impacts to water resources, practices observed from industry or implemented by the agency, and their views regarding gaps in regulations.  Based on the review findings, the OIG report recommends that:

  • The EPA Assistant Administrator for Water identify whether primacy states and tribes are issuing permits for the use of diesel fuels as required.
  • The EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance address any compliance issues related to issuing permits for hydraulic fracturing using diesel fuels.
  • The EPA Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention establish and publish a plan with milestone dates that outlines all steps for determining whether to propose a rule to obtain information concerning chemical substances and mixtures used in hydraulic fracturing.

EPA has adequately responded to the recommendations by either agreeing with them or proposing actions to address them.   For more information and for questions, please call the OIG public affairs office at 202-566-2391 or visit www.epa.gov/oig.  The full report is available at:  http://www.epa.gov/oig/reports/2015/20150716-15-P-0204.pdf.

WaterSense Launches When In Drought Campaign

WaterSense, an EPA partnership program that offers people a simple way to use less water with water-efficient products, new homes and services, has launched its When In Drought campaign. This campaign will amplify drought messaging in western states, and will create awareness that summer time is the most critical time to save on watering.  For example, in California, utilities are concerned about meeting mandated cuts if summer water usage does not decrease.  When In Drought campaign materials include an animated video that describes actions (plant the right plants, take a sprinkler break, switch to WaterSense products, etc.) everyone can take to save water.  To coincide with this campaign WaterSense is hosting a #WaterSavingYard Photo Challenge on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to showcase how beautiful drought-tolerant landscapes can be.  For more information, visit the web site HERE.

White House Report on Federal Actions to Address Climate Change

The White House has released a progress report and highlighting some of the key actions taken by the Administration that support the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force recommendations on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.  The President established the Task Force in 2013 as part of his Climate Action Plan to help the Federal Government respond to the needs of communities nationwide that are dealing with the impacts of climate change. The Task Force recommendations emphasized the importance of supporting communities that are likely to be disproportionately affected, including those that already face economic- or health-related challenges.  In addition to the progress report, the White House is also announcing a series of new actions focused on enhancing resilience in the communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change that includes over $25 million in private and public investments.  Visit the web site to view the report HERE.

USGS Report on Water Use for Hydraulic Fracturing

On June 30th, the US Geological Survey released new information about water use related to hydraulic fracturing.  The study reports that the amount of water used in the fracking process varies depending on location and type of well.  Water volumes for hydraulic fracturing averaged within watersheds across the United States range from as little as 2,600 gallons to as much as 9.7 million gallons per well.

According to the USGS press release, “From 2000 to 2014, median annual water volume estimates for hydraulic fracturing in horizontal wells had increased from about 177,000 gallons per oil and gas well to more than 4 million gallons per oil well and 5.1 million gallons per gas well.  Meanwhile, median water use in vertical and directional wells remained below 671,000 gallons per well.  For comparison, an Olympic-sized swimming pool holds about 660,000 gallons.”  Watersheds where the greatest amount of water was used for fracking include those in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi as well as those found in the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations covering parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York.

The USGS Report is entitled “Hydraulic fracturing water use variability in the United States and potential environmental implications,” and has been accepted for publication in Water Resources Research, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.  More information about this study and other USGS energy research can be found at the USGS Energy Resources Program.