Water Monitoring and Fracking on National Forests

One of the destructive impacts of hydraulic fracturing for national gas on public lands is degradation of headwater streams.  The public is very concerned about safe drinking water and National Forests are a source of such water.  Wild Virginia which advocates for George Washington National Forest protection used this fact to educate the public about how many people depend on this water source for their drinking water (See their report at http://wildvirginia.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/state-of-our-water-full-report.pdf )

Advocates for keeping fracking out of the George Washington National Forest have used protecting drinking water to recruit support for this position downstream all the way to the national capitol. DC Water, Fairfax Water and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Washington Aqueduct that provides water to DC, Arlington, Falls Church and a portion of Fairfax County have sent letters opposing fracking and drilling in the Forest until it is proven safe. The DC City Council joined them on March 4, 2014.  Earthworks Action is working on this issue.  See their press release at: http://www.earthworksaction.org/media/detail/washington_d.c._city_council_opposes_fracking_in_george_washington_national#.UzI7Qm8nLmIgton_national

The Forest Service itself has created a water tracking tool called Forest to Faucets that ranks the importance of high mountain streams to downstream water users. http://www.fs.fed.us/ecosystemservices/FS_Efforts/forests2faucets.shtml  (Click here to see Monongahela National Forest map created through this program).

Monitoring streams in national forests to establish a water quality baseline before fracking occurs could help in limiting fracking that would degrade streams. Advocacy groups could partner with watershed groups such as Alabama Water Watch (http://www.alabamawaterwatch.org/). In Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia Trout Unlimited and Three River Quest (http://3riversquest.org/3-rivers-quest/) are doing trainings based on the Dickinson College water monitoring program called Allarm.  This seminal training program is available on-line with workbooks, sample forms and videos. Click here to understand the process: (http://www.dickinson.edu/allarm  and http://blogs.dickinson.edu/marcellusmonitoring/

You will need to partner with a University or state agency to insure that the data you collect is official and meets federal standards like those created by the EPA.  The programs listed above have partnered universities or the National Resources Conservation Service.