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Open-File Report 2013–1137

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy

Water Resources and Shale Gas/Oil Production in the Appalachian Basin—Critical Issues and Evolving Developments

By William M. Kappel, John H. Williams, and Zoltan Szabo

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (1.84 MB)Introduction

Unconventional natural gas and oil resources in the United States are important components of a national energy program. While the Nation seeks greater energy independence and greener sources of energy, Federal agencies with environmental responsibilities, state and local regulators and water-resource agencies, and citizens throughout areas of unconventional shale gas development have concerns about the environmental effects of high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF), including those in the Appalachian Basin in the northeastern United States (fig. 1). Environmental concerns posing critical challenges include the availability and use of surface water and groundwater for hydraulic fracturing; the migration of stray gas and potential effects on overlying aquifers; the potential for flowback, formation fluids, and other wastes to contaminate surface water and groundwater; and the effects from drill pads, roads, and pipeline infrastructure on land disturbance in small watersheds and headwater streams (U.S. Government Printing Office, 2012). Federal, state, regional and local agencies, along with the gas industry, are striving to use the best science and technology to develop these unconventional resources in an environmentally safe manner.

Some of these concerns were addressed in U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Fact Sheet 2009–3032 (Soeder and Kappel, 2009) about potential critical effects on water resources associated with the development of gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale of the Hamilton Group (Ver Straeten and others, 1994). Since that time, (1) the extraction process has evolved, (2) environmental awareness related to high-volume hydraulic fracturing process has increased, (3) state regulations concerning gas well drilling have been modified, and (4) the practices used by industry to obtain, transport, recover, treat, recycle, and ultimately dispose of the spent fluids and solid waste materials have evolved.

This report updates and expands on Fact Sheet 2009–3032 and presents new information regarding selected aspects of unconventional shale gas development in the Appalachian Basin (primarily Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York). This document was prepared by the USGS, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy, and reviews the evolving technical advances and scientific studies made in the Appalachian Basin between 2009 and the present (2013), addressing past and current issues for oil and gas development in the region.

First posted August 15, 2013

For additional information contact:
Director, New York Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
425 Jordan Road
Troy, NY 12180

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Suggested citation:

Kappel, W.M., Williams, J.H., Szabo, Zoltan, 2013, Water resources and shale gas/oil production in the Appalachian Basin—Critical issues and evolving developments, U.S. Geological Survey, Open-File Report 2013–1137, p. 12, at



Water Supply

Stray Gas

Radioactivity in Shale Waste

Fluid Waste Treatment and Disposal

Deep Well Injection of Fluid Waste

Solid Waste Disposal

Construction and Transportation


References Cited

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