Energy Cos Water Withdrawals Halted Due to Low Pa. Stream Levels

Chesapeake Energy and Talisman Energy are among energy companies being impacted by a temporary suspension of approved water withdrawals due to low stream levels throughout the Susquehanna Basin.

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) on April 18 suspended 17 separate water withdrawals affecting 10 companies in five Pennsylvania counties.

The majority of the suspended withdrawals are related to water for Marcellus shale gas development. Energy companies impacted by the withdrawal suspension include EXCO Resources, XTO Energy, Carrizo and Tennessee Gas Pipeline.

"Hydrologic conditions have been on a steady decline for some time following a winter with very little snow and below normal rainfall this spring," said SRBC Executive Director Paul Swartz in a statement Wednesday.

Under SRBC's passby flow restrictions, when streams drop to pre-determined protected low flow levels, project sponsors who are required to meet the agency's passby requirement must stop taking water. They cannot resume taking water until streams have recovered above the protected level for at least 48 hours.

Based on unseasonably low streamflow conditions, SRBC's passby requirements actually began kicking in as early as February of this year for certain water withdrawals in northern Pennsylvania.

If rainfall shortages persist, the Commission anticipates more water withdrawals being suspended, as was the case in 2010 and 2011, Swartz commented.

"The Commission does not wait for drought declarations to temporarily halt water withdrawals. Our science-based stream protection system kicks in well before the streams drop to critical low levels," Swartz added.

SRBC and its regulated project sponsors monitor real-time streamflow data generated by stream gages maintained and operated by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Restrictions are triggered when flows fall below an annual average, a situation that often occurs during summer months but can occur at any time during the year, Brian Grove, senior director of corporative development at Chesapeake, told Rigzone in an email statement.

"Chesapeake has worked cooperatively with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission from the beginning of our activity here several years ago, and we will fully comply with all requirements the agency sets forth as it fulfills its mission to responsibility manage the water resources of our region," Grove said.

Grove commented that intervals of low river flows are an annual reality, which the company took into consideration when applying for withdrawal permits. "Chesapeake performed impact analyses prior to applying for permits, and we employ multiple monitoring systems to confirm that water is withdrawn only from sites where flow rates remain above their permitted minimums."

Chesapeake mitigates anticipated restrictions on water by withdrawing water during high-flow intervals and storing it for later use. "Preparations in expectation of the restrictions ensure Chesapeake's operations aren't affected and that there are no impacts on the waterways," Grove noted.

"Through proper planning and water management, such as using freshwater storage impoundments and our industry-leading Aqua Renew water recycling and reuse program, these seasonal changes in water availability are extensively planned and are not expected to have a significant effect on our operations."


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