Pietro Bonetti, Christian Leuz, Giovanna Michelon
The impact of unconventional oil and gas development on water quality is a major environmental concern. We built a large geocoded database that combines surface water measurements with horizontally drilled wells stimulated by hydraulic fracturing (HF) for several shales to examine whether temporal and spatial well variation is associated with anomalous salt concentrations in United States watersheds. We analyzed four ions that could indicate water impact from unconventional development. We found very small concentration increases associated with new HF wells for barium, chloride, and strontium but not bromide. All ions showed larger, but still small-in-magnitude, increases 91 to 180 days after well spudding. Our estimates were most pronounced for wells with larger amounts of produced water, wells located over high-salinity formations, and wells closer and likely upstream from water monitors.