What the Frack is Up with Drinking Water and Shale Gas Extraction?

By Tasha Eichenseher | June 24, 2013 3:08 pm

A study out today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences helps to build the case that the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” does indeed pollute underground water reserves.

Researchers from Duke, the University of Rochester and California State Polytechnic University analyzed 141 drinking water wells in northeastern Pennsylvania and southern New York, near the Marcellus shale-gas deposit, where extraction started ramping up around 2005.  They were looking for concentrations of methane, ethane and propane gas that could be traced back to nearby natural gas wells.

They found that of the drinking water they tested in homes less than a kilometer away from a natural gas well, 82 percent had well-related methane levels that averaged six times higher than levels found in homes farther than a kilometer. (Some methane occurs naturally, so researchers teased out the isotopic signatures of methane from natural-gas sources.)

A Marcellus shale gas extraction well pad and farm in Pennsylvania.

A Marcellus shale gas extraction well pad and farm in Pennsylvania. Image courtesy of Robert B. Jackson.

“Overall, our data suggest that some homeowners living <1 km from gas wells have drinking water contaminated with stray gases,” wrote the study authors.

They speculate that natural-gas-well casings may be leaking, and that the geology of the formation makes a difference in terms of what can and can’t migrate to drinking water supplies.

Many people suspect fracking pollutes water in two ways: 1) Extraction is done with the help of chemicals that are designed to keep rock fractures open and wells clean and clear of bacteria, salts, metals and more. Many of these chemicals do not have to be identified because they are proprietary. Some may leak into groundwater wells and some may resurface and ultimately end up in toxic pools that, just like mining tailing ponds, if not managed properly could leak into surface waters. 2) The other concern is that the gas itself will leak into water supplies. It is possible that methane, the main element of natural gas, can seep out of natural gas wells into drinking water wells when the seals on the gas wells fail. The methane itself is not considered a health hazard, but can reduce oxygen and that it turn can increase the solubility of arsenic and other potentially harmful substances. Or in rare cases it can cause explosions.

Previous studies on water quality and fracking have come up mostly blank. I wrote about a paper in a May issue of Science that also looked at the Marcellus region and basically concluded that we still know very little about the link between water quality and hydraulic fracturing.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a report due out in 2014 on the relationship between the two, but in the meantime has stepped away from confirming whether or not fracking led to groundwater pollution near Pavillion, Wyoming, in 2011.  Their original findings there were some of the only other data points bridging extraction to contamination.  Instead of pursing the investigation itself, the EPA has turned it over to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

 

  • Timothy James Rogers

    Fracking is going on, in Morgantown, WV, though so far I don’t believe the water is tainted though the water is definitely not the best. There was all this bickering over it coming to the city, but it came to a vote and supposedly was voted through to allow it. The power companies are switching to natural gas now and is getting rid of the coal powered plants because of environmental issues of the atmosphere but it might be poisoning our rivers. instead. Not to mention the main reason to allow the fracking was to create jobs but the coal mining jobs have been lost as a result. Always with the double edge sword, we really need to find better ways to generate power.

    • Psyclic

      I agree with you that the goal should be alternate power – wind, wave, geothermal, solar, efficiency, demand reduction. Current O&G PR is that these are miniscule efforts and will not reduce the actual O&G demand, but this is NOT true.
      As for your “water not being tainted” – the migration of gases, chemical additives, returned water and storage pit runoffs are all immensely variable events – and do not occur within days – but over the lifetime of the well, and the neighborhood. Like leaving your home unlocked probably won’t result in damage…

      • Timothy James Rogers

        I wouldn’t doubt it. There’s no hope for us as a species, I could banter on and on about our inevitable doom but I’m sure you already know.

  • John Moyer

    Fraccidents will happen … The oil & gas industry will not protect you …

  • John Moyer

    The oil & gas industry fibbed … Imagine that …

  • Scott Brion

    Umm did you read the study? The study does not indicate that “fracking” pollutes groundwater as you state in your opening paragraph. The study indicates that the cause of the higher presence of methane in water wells located closer to Marcellus wells is due to faulty or inadequate steel casings and imperfections in cement. The distinction is important as the widespread fears of chemical contamination of water (see your first way fracking may pollute) are not supported. Further, if anything the study supports the findings in their (Duke’s) previous study that no evidence of chemical contamination from hydraulic fracturing is evident in the sampled water wells.

    I concede the “scary” nature of fracking and am all for more serious study to fully evaluate the risks of modern shale development, but it is counter productive to needlessly add fuel to the emotional debate at the expense of the factual one. Too many people are unaware of the very real impacts of surface chemical spills and methane migration. We could all benefit from an honest discussion of the known impacts of drilling.

    • Psyclic

      Good point! It’s not “fracking” its just the poor quality of the fracking process & materials and overall oversight and quality management that causes problems. Wow! Glad you cleared that up.

      • Scott Brion

        Yes, and those issues are potentially not too hard to address. Its not sexy, but a little more concern with materials & oversight would go a long way toward improving the known problem.

        • Psyclic

          “Not too hard to address” – hmm. I guess the same could be said about the quality of education in America – We’re seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science – and for Health support: America is forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality.
          But not to worry – our technology (with the support of anti-evolutionists sitting on the House Science Committee) can look forward to proven industrial technology – where our superior knowledge of deep-sea drilling and fault prevention led to the largest oil spill in 70 years – bigger than the Ixtoc Pemex spill which had been the largest spill with over 3 Million Barrels dumped into the Pacific – which was the largest ocean oil spill at over 200 million gallons – and who knows how much chemical dispersants.
          I don’t know where you are coming from Scott – whether you are just overly optimistic about American industry’s interest in clean and safe energy (though I cannot think of any serious examples which would support that, certainly not by industry intention except by government fiat); or that your job is somehow related to energy development and you are therefore not un-biased; or you are just not paying attention.
          Extraordinary problems call for extraordinary solutions and people with couragfe and insight, not glad-handers who believe all will be fine and dandy when all is fine and dandy — cause you can’t get there from here.

          • Scott Brion

            I think you are making my point for me…. Properly sealing a steel and cement well bore to stop the methane migration identified in the Duke study should be considerably easier than solving the highly complex societal problems of healthcare and education and not even remotely comparable in complexity to deep water drilling. I do not trust industry to acknowledge and solve known drilling problems of their own volition and I suggest that all the public’s focus on fracking slows progress on real known issues with drilling.

          • Getplanted

            One major problem is that even the best designed and constructed well casings all fail eventually.

          • Psyclic

            No. I am not making your point.
            Scott, as someone whose job is embedded in the O&G industry, I can appreciate your interest in having all this noisy controversy about fracking just go away and let you continue to invest and make money in poeace — but as someone who lives on well water, I am more sensitive to “slight” problems which will render my water poisoned and my home worthless.
            As you say: ” I do not trust industry to acknowledge and solve known drilling problems of their own volition…” Then who will?

          • Scott Brion

            IMO active state regulation and oversight are the best answer to who will insure that problems are addressed. I believe we are more likely to get that oversight if those of us concerned about clean drinking water start focusing on the facts and proactively calling for improvements that are needed. I suggest it is counter productive to blame water pollution on “fracking” when fracking is not the cause of the methane pollution we are concerned about.

            I suspect that you might misunderstand my motivation. I live in a rural farmhouse in nrothern PA , rely on a well for my water and there are a two new Hz gas wells on my neighbors’ property. I purchased my property in 2004 with gas lease all ready in place, and I will not benefit from my neighbors wells and therefore am concerned that the only impact to me and my property would be negative. I have tested my water to establish a baseline and I am aware that although it is not likely, my water could be impacted from the gas production on the neighbors property or from future wells. I recently read that shale gas wells now account for half the natural gas produced n the US – so barring some dramatic new (real & factual) discovery regarding the impact of hydraulic fracturing it is not going anywhere and will continue in PA for some time. Given all that, I am concerned that polarizing the fracking issue creates gridlock that serves to delay appropriate regulation and oversight that would be beneficial to my personal situation.

            You seem to also assume much about my support of industry. I own and have invested in properties based on their oil & gas potential, but my primary business is providing consulting to landowners regarding leasing and managing their oil & gas leases. I would characterize this work as (at a minimum) at odds with unregulated industry.

          • Marc

            Please show me a single example of effective state or federal oversight and regulation. It does not exist unless it is being secreted away by a cabal of the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and god.

          • Scott Brion

            Clean air act

          • Vladimir Zivkovic

            I wish I cold ‘like’ that comment more than once!

          • Marc

            I really do not know if you are being obtuse, or if you are as illiterate as you appear to be, but the Clean Water Act, along with the Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Air Act, CERCLA and 5 other environmental acts that were passed into law by the US Congress were specifically exempted from compliance by the oil and gas industry in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

            Either you are a liar, or else you are really stupid.But one thing is certain – you do not have a clue about this issue, and you are arguing it based upon false claims. You are in VERY bad need of education on the facts.

          • generation4Him

            There is no such thing as active state regulatation and oversight. Since fracking began in PA, the PA environmental protection agency (DEP) has been downsized by the pro-fracking governor, key critics of out of control fracking practices from the DEP have been fired, and laws have been passed giving fracking companies a free pass to do whatever they want in many cases without fear of lawsuits or government intervention. But you already knew this, Scott, didn’t you.

          • Scott Brion

            First – I believe that we need better / increased regulation and oversight. In PA this probably requires some new legislation which would be difficult. I do believe that calls for moratoriums on fracking that have no scientific backing in fact are a distraction and that efforts in that vein would be better spent in support of new legislation & more robust oversight.

            Second I disagree completely with your statements above. We can have better oversight and regulation, but we need to have lawmakers,environmental activists and citizens listening to each other to begin to plot a better course.

            Third I am frustrated with DEP oversight, but have to acknowledge that DEP has tightened regulations and dramatically improved oversight from where it started 5 years ago. Improved well casing standards and elimination of disposing treated waste water in streams are important steps in the right direction. Further while DEP overall may have seen cuts (which I oppose) It is a fact that DEP Staff in the oil & gas department have been greatly expanded and several new regional and field office have been opened. Additionally I think act 13 was a terrible bill, but it is rediculous to state that oil & gas companies have free reign to do whatever they want. It is exactly that kind of hyperbole which makes those who support industry tune out to any concern about the environment.

          • Marc

            It is NOT possible to “properly case and cement a well.” The earth moves – frequently – because of drought, soaking rains, plate tectonics and numerous other causes that result in earth movements that crack or break casing pipes and cement.

            Again, you are talking in theoretical terms rather than addressing reality.

          • Scott Brion

            I am not an expert in well design, but by your post I am pretty sure you are not either. I do believe that techincal problems like casing can be solved. New requirements and industry best practices in PA have already gone a long way to improving thsi known problem,

          • Marc

            B.S.! I am not an expert, but I can refer you to two who are, and both with politely tell you that you are full of it.

            Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, Professor of Fracture Mechanics at Cornell University.

            Dr. Marc Durand, Professor (retired) of Applied Geological Engineering at the University of Quebec at Montreal.

            The more you attempt to sound literate the more you show just how far from it you really are. Instead of dealing with facts you just repeat the same old lies of the industry that have been solidly disproven many times.

          • Scott Brion

            Not familiar with dr.Durand, but I have read ingrafea and with lay knowledge can point out major problems with his study assumptions. He is not exactly known as being impartial in his work nor is he an acknowledged expert in well design.

          • Marc

            Once again, you lie like a lazy dog. Ingraffea was a geological engineer for Schlumberger for over 20 years, and his knowledge of the topic is a mountain compared to your thimble full of disinformation. Ingraffea definitely IS an expert in well design, unlike you.

            You are nothing but a shill for the oil and gas industry regardless of your false claims to the contrary.

          • Scott Brion

            I will let the combination of your comments, personal attacks and ignorance on the subject speak for itself.

    • George Schiebel

      Then concede that fracking should not continue until these inadequacies and imperfections are corrected. You cannot rely on companies to use the best materials. My fear is that there is a inclination to use materials that will last until they are gone.

      • Scott Brion

        Agree that drillers must be required to implement well construction standards that safe for long term. Respectfully disagree that some sort of ban is workable or preferable to regulation & holding O&G companies accountable for methane migration.

        • EXH20CTO

          30,000 people were killed last year by guns and 12 died in coal mine accidents in 2012 (an all time low), none killed by hydrofracturing. Scott is absolutely correct, the leakage issues purported to be associated with fracking are very low as % of total operations and are as manageable as other areas of human endeavor with intrinsic risk concerns, e.g. air travel and automobiles. I concede the need for continued improvements in well casing materials and construction codes as more information evolves from operating experience

          • Marc

            THAT is a Neanderthal argument. Cancers from exposure to the many carcinogenic chemicals and compounds used in the fracing process take 20-30 years. Just because somebody has not died now does not mean the process is safe, but for the record people HAVE died from numerous components of fracing including being killed by traffic accidents involving frac chemical and wastewater trucks, explosions of pipelines and direct exposure to frac chemicals or their vapors.

            You just choose not to believe the truth because it conflicts with your dogma.

          • Scott Brion

            Great. now kindly point us to the studies that support any of your claims above.

          • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Alan Hennington

            Youre nothing but a company yes man

    • Wong Wei

      I assume that you work for an oil company or are in the industry?

      • Scott Brion

        I am not associated with or particularly supportive of industry. I am a landowner and work for land owners in northern PA.

      • Psyclic

        You are correct – Scott is a landsman – he facillitates leases between landowners and O&G exploration companies. By getting the best deal for the landowner (and, increasing his commission) he feels he is “putting the squeeze” on the O&G companies.
        Scott also believes that while current legislation for fracking is not “perfect” and we need “changes”, public escalation of issues is a nuisance. In other words, since nothing has been done by the O&G developers, and the State just wants revenues, and the public should put a sock in it, the “fracking fairy” will visit each well at an appointed time, and fix the problems.
        Just wait.

        • Scott Brion

          Sorry but why would you purport to know who I am or what I think?

          I am not a Landman and from your comment it is clear that you do not know what a Landman is or what they do.

          • Marc

            Well, I know what a landman is – he is a professional liar. Politicians study landman tactics to learn how to lie well enough to be politicians.

    • Marc

      Scott, you are trying to use the same old farce of an argument that the Oil and Gas Industry always uses, playing semantics games instead of dealing with the facts.

      In common vernacular, “fracing” does NOT refer to ONLY the actual process of hydraulic fracturing a well, but rather to the whole enchilada. We know that casing failures are the most common causes of leaks leading to contaminated ground water, but those wells would not even be drilled in the first place if hydraulic fracturing was not being used to reach and produce shale gas.

      Instead of nitpicking nonsensical points why don’t you try considering the true facts that the whole process is one event made up of various component parts, and that it does not really matter which of those parts causes the problem. What matters is that the problem exists, and it would NOT exist if not for hydraulic fracturing to recover shale gas in tight formations.

      Your argument is farcical, at best, and intellectually dishonest at worst.

      • Scott Brion

        Marc I am trying to post here in sincerity and honestly. But your comments could be more respectful.

        There is an important distinction in fracking and the additional drilling that is feasible from fracking and the specific issue of known and suspected water contamination from failed cement or casing. The latter is a discrete relatively known problem that is real, proven and I believe can and should be addressed as it is relatively well understood.

        The issue of contamination directly from fracking at depths of a mile or more on the other hand would be a really big deal. Credible evidence of such contamination would call in to question the “established science” on which supporters (me included) rely. This would be the sort of event which would require a huge amount of study and understanding before anyone could support the use of hydraulic fracturing and is distinctly different from the understood problem of say casing failure.

        So far we have not had that direct evidence. I believe we should keep looking for it and 100% support additional study , but to say that fracking is causing water contamination is sensationalizing the issue and implying a big unsolvable problem exists when we do not have any evidence (yet) to that effect. Keep looking – by all means It is in all of our interest to find that evidence should it exist.

        I for one am tired of the debate being dominated by those who 1) would never acknowledge such evidence were it to be found 2) the other camp who act like such evidence has been found while it very clearly has not.

        • Marc

          It is not possible to be respectful to one who intentionally lies and uses completely false and fabricated arguments in place of proven scientific facts. If you want to have a respectful conversation, then put aside the industry propaganda and start learning the truth so that you can discuss this subject intelligently and honestly.

          • Scott Brion

            You are completely ignorant on the topic as well as rude.

          • Marc

            No, Scott, I am NOT ignorant on this topic. In fact, I probably know 100 times as much about it as you know. I have carefully and studiously educated myself for the past four years on every phase of natural gas exploration and production starting with the way landmen like yourself lie to and intentionally mislead mineral owners with promises they will become the next Jed Clampett when the truth is that their land is going to be destroyed and its value is going to plummet as a result of having allowed the people you represent to mine their minerals.

            As to my being rude, I am only rude to liars and charlatans who pretend to know and speak the truth when, for a fact, they are lying to and misleading people for their own personal monetary gain.

  • johnhay

    The only line that matters is the methane is harmless, stupid headline aside. Really, Discovery used to be an actual magazine of science, now they’re with the anti-science loons who think people can build a magic weather-control machine and get energy from unicorns. The debate is over and we really can’t afford to wait to exploit clean, safe natural gas.

    • Steve Matsukawa

      Oh shut up.

    • Psyclic

      1. This is a “blog”, and the more excited the responses, the better the rating. Therefore controversy is sought.
      2. Discover magazine – the actual magazine – has been pimping to the pseudo educated for a few years – similar to Scientific American, which has sold-out in a similar manner.
      3. Clearly the debate is NOT over – and the alternatives should not be brushed aside and ignored: Conservation, efficiency, and alternative sources ARE valid, but UNDER-funded. (Oil exploration when Drake and the first well were being drilled were heavily funded by the Federal Government in the late 1800s – and they still are).
      4. It’s not cool to vote for yourself.

    • http://discovermagazine.com/ Tasha Eichenseher

      I’m just relaying what the study said, as I did in a previous post for a study that found essentially no connection. But energy from unicorns… Discovery should definitely do a story about that.

    • Marc

      You are a fool! Natural gas is losing money everywhere. In fact, in the Barnett Shale of Texas there are currently only a few drilling rigs even drilling for natural gas. The rest have been moved to the Bakken in North Dakota to explore for oil because natural gas is causing them to hemorrhage investor money and that money is drying up.

      Chesapeake, the Number 2 largest producer in the nation, is $25 Billion in debt and on the verge of bankruptcy. They recently fired Aubrey McClendon as President and CEO of the company he founded because of his illegal activities and destructive practices that have led to investigations by the FBI and SEC. You can expect to see Aubrey in prison in the near future, and he is but one example of what is starting to happen as the truth becomes known.

      Methane is hardly “harmless”, as you falsely claim. In fact, it is more than 20 times as harmful to the ozone layer that protects earth from harmful solar radiation over 100 years and 70-100 times as harmful over 20 years. There is nothing “clean” or “safe” about natural gas exploration and production, though it does burn cleaner than coal. But, burning is merely the last stage of natural gas, and extracting it is far more damaging than extracting or burning coal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.laplante.75 Steve Laplante

    By all means casing problems must be evaluated before meaningful data are possible. So why even publish this??

    • generation4Him

      Because it’s not just a casing problem. That’s what they want people to believe. But think about it…they’re not shooting these chemicals down into CASING alone, or what would be the point? At some point, the chemicals come in contact with exposed rock – and FRACK the rocks to release the natural gas. It’s not just the casing breaking where the poisonous chemicals escape underground – it’s part of the whole process that the rocks are INJECTED with these chemicals, and wherever they go from there, doesn’t matter, because these companies are immune from the Clean Water Drinking Act and any environmental ramifications or oversight, and all civil lawsuits.

      • Scott Brion

        I don’t think you understand the issue discussed in the Duke study. The suspected casing problem relates to methane mitgration. It has not been shown that any chemicals are involved in this migration. and Duke did not report finding any chemicals only methane that is allowed to migrate from deeper depths into water aquifers. The casing and cement issues are related to the vertical portion of the well bore and the water is located at depths of 500 feet and less while fracking occurs much deeper on the horizontal portion of the well typically (in PA) at a depth of 4,500 – 8,000 feet.

        • Marc

          It is not even remotely possible to point to specific chemicals when the oil and gas industry hides their chemicals under the cover of “proprietary trade secrets.”

          • Scott Brion

            For those still following please go to rangeresources.com. There is a link on the home page labeled well completions. There you will find the exact contents of every frac range performs. The specific chemicals used in Marcellus fracs have been published and widely known for quite some time.

  • Steve Matsukawa

    Apparently, no one wants to step on the toes of big oil. Or step on the toes of politicians and bureaucrats who own large shares of stock in the fracking companies.

    Just goes to show that power and wealth are all that counts in America, Americans health is chopped liver.

    • Marc

      Steve, we stepped on the toes of big oil in Dallas. In fact, we kicked ExxonMobil, the biggest of them all, right out of our city and we are on the verge of kicking Trinity East out, as well. We stopped Chief Oil and Gas, Chesapeake and Dale Resources fvrom getting permits to drill here. We have stopped all efforts to frac Dallas because we have made persuasive and convincing arguments before our City Council and City Plan Commission (zoning board) based upon existing City Ordinances.

      We have proven that you CAN fight City Hall and you CAN win IF you have enough people armed with factual information that rebuts the false claims of industry. In fact, our efforts have led to the resignations of our City Attorney (effective August 1) and City Manager (effective November 1) as a result of confronting their lies and coverups as part of an effort by our city leaders to allow fracing in Dallas.

      The two best defenses are (1) legal issues pertaining to the power of Home Rule and (2) the fiscal issues in an era where it costs about 2.5 – 3 times as much to produce natural gas as it sells for in the market, and that is just production cost – the actual cost to producers also includes state and federal taxes and transportation costs, which makes it even less profitable.
      The proof that the oil and gas industry does not know what it is doing lies in the fact that they are working on investor money to drill wells that are not producing paying quantities, and that they have to drill MANY more wells to maintain production flows in a declining market. Read the works of economist Deborah Rogers about the Ponzi scheme that is natural gas development – they are not trying to sell natural gas; they are trying to sell gas companies.

  • Steve Matsukawa

    So it seems that fracking should go on until it is proven to be harmful. That should mollify those people down the line who will be dying from the effects of fracking.

  • jh

    Tasha,

    Would be interesting to know what level of methane (if any) is considered harmful, and if – regardless of the source of the methane – any of the samples exceeded harmful concentrations.

    I think that’s the rub.

    • http://discovermagazine.com/ Tasha Eichenseher

      This is a great question — one I’ll try to answer in detail in an upcoming post. Thanks.

  • Doug Nusbaum

    Fairly easy to solve the problem. 1 – 5K water tanks will be build near the homes of the manager of each well and at the home of all C level executives of the corporation doing the drilling as well as the board of directors. Water will be extracted from the water wells nearest to the drilling sites and wells and will be carted to these storage tanks and those tanks will be used to supply all bathing, drinking and cooking water for the homes mentioned above. There will be no bottled water allowed, and no filtering.

    I bet that immediately all problems will vanish like a politicians promises.

    • Marc

      Doug, I have been saying that same thing for years. If we had laws mandating that oil and gas executives and their families live 300 feet (the nominal setback distance required by most laws) from well sites ALL drilling would cease immediately. They know how dangerous and harmful their practices are, but since it is YOUR family rather than THEIR families who are in danger they simply do not care how much you and your kids suffer, how much your property devalues or how much it costs to remediate the damages they cause.

  • gamesintx

    One think for certain is you can’t convert, influence or change an opinion of a anti-frac activist. They don’t want to hear it, they manipulate the facts, they are anti-capitalist and their primary strategy is to call people ( that they don’t agree with) names like stupid, Liar’s, etc.

    Since they despise the hydrocarbon economy they all ride bikes! Or do they?

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Water Works

Water Works is a forum for telling stories about where our drinking water and food come from. It traces tap water back to its source, demystifies tales of pollution, dissects infrastructure, digs into soil quality, explores efficient farming, touches on energy and climate issues, and gets to the root of predicted food and water security problems.

About Tasha Eichenseher

Tasha Eichenseher is a senior editor at Discover magazine, where she produces print and digital stories and manages the Discover blogging network . With more than a decade of science journalism experience, Tasha has spent the last few years focused on writing and editing content about water. Before moving back to Wisconsin, she helped to launch National Geographic's freshwater initiative, website, and news series, and blogged for Water Currents. In 2011 and 2012, she studied water law, wastewater treatment and aquatic ecosystems as a Ted Scripps Environmental Journalism Fellow at the University of Colorado in Boulder. She takes her water with whiskey.

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