Much of the debate on “fracking” in the United States is fueled by poor communication among stakeholders. Information in the public sphere may be provided by biased sources, and complicated academic research is often misinterpreted by media sources. The goal of this review is to provide an open-access source for a non-technical audience that facilitates a balanced discussion on the complex topics related to hydraulic fracturing and its impact on water resources. The limited information available suggests that many of the environmental concerns related to hydraulic fracturing activities may be similar to those experienced from other industrial practices. Two examples of concerns that are not unique to hydraulic fracturing include water use and chemical non-disclosure. Hydraulic fracturing well completions use similar amounts of water when compared to other energy and mining activities and undisclosed chemical additives may also be present in food and cosmetic products. The point here is not to say that water consumption and non-disclosure of proprietary chemical additives are not issues that warrant closer consideration as we continue to utilize hydraulic fracturing to pursue our domestic shale gas reserves, but instead, to highlight similar environmental challenges presented by other industrial activities. Many research and knowledge gaps remain regarding the ultimate impact of high volume hydraulic fracturing on the environment, however, the high profile nature of the fracking debate can help raise public awareness to the broader sustainability challenges associated with the efficient utilization of our water and energy resources.
Michigan Journal of Sustainability, 2013, Vol 1, p. 109-129