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Environ Sci Technol. 2015 Aug 4;49(15):8969-76. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.5b01228. Epub 2015 Jul 21.

The Depths of Hydraulic Fracturing and Accompanying Water Use Across the United States.

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∥Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27708, United States.
⊥School of Environment and Natural Resources, OARDC, The Ohio State University, Wooster, Ohio 44691, United States.


Reports highlight the safety of hydraulic fracturing for drinking water if it occurs "many hundreds of meters to kilometers underground". To our knowledge, however, no comprehensive analysis of hydraulic fracturing depths exists. Based on fracturing depths and water use for ∼44,000 wells reported between 2010 and 2013, the average fracturing depth across the United States was 8300 ft (∼2500 m). Many wells (6900; 16%) were fractured less than a mile from the surface, and 2600 wells (6%) were fractured above 3000 ft (900 m), particularly in Texas (850 wells), California (720), Arkansas (310), and Wyoming (300). Average water use per well nationally was 2,400,000 gallons (9,200,000 L), led by Arkansas (5,200,000 gallons), Louisiana (5,100,000 gallons), West Virginia (5,000,000 gallons), and Pennsylvania (4,500,000 gallons). Two thousand wells (∼5%) shallower than one mile and 350 wells (∼1%) shallower than 3000 ft were hydraulically fractured with >1 million gallons of water, particularly in Arkansas, New Mexico, Texas, Pennsylvania, and California. Because hydraulic fractures can propagate 2000 ft upward, shallow wells may warrant special safeguards, including a mandatory registry of locations, full chemical disclosure, and, where horizontal drilling is used, predrilling water testing to a radius 1000 ft beyond the greatest lateral extent.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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