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A dozen drilling companies have expressed interest
MIKE CARDEW/AKRON BEACON JOURNAL
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By Bob Downing
Akron Beacon Journal
AKRON, Ohio--Lea Harper is on the warpath.
The southeast Ohio resident is upset that the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, which collects surface water from Akron's south side all the way to Marietta on the Ohio River, is selling water from one of its reservoirs to Gulfport Energy Corp. for natural gas drilling.
That water from Clendening Reservoir in Harrison County could be just the beginning of a huge drain on Ohio's water resources, she said. Hundreds of billions of gallons are at stake, not only because of its immediate effect on lakes and rivers, but also perhaps a permanent effect on water supplies.
Chesapeake Energy Corp., for example, the most active driller in the state, is interested in the watershed's Leesville Reservoir, about 20 miles south of Canton, Ohio.
Paul Feezel of Carroll Concerned Citizens, a grass-roots group in Carroll County, where drilling is heaviest, estimates that the water needed to supply Ohio's annual drilling needs could drain two-thirds of Leesville Reservoir annually.
In all, the conservancy district has requests for water from a dozen drilling companies that are eager to tap six reservoirs in eastern Ohio.
But the conservancy is not the only source: Drillers are buying water from communities, private pond owners, water districts and private water companies, as well as pulling free water from Ohio streams.
"I'm just flabbergasted and appalled that Ohioans are willing to see their water future disappear," said Harper, who heads the Southeast Ohio Alliance to Save Our Water, a grass-roots group.
Ohio has plenty of water and can furnish the water needed for drilling to help boost Ohio's economy, state officials say. The water needed by drillers is just a drop in the bucket.
Ohio typically uses 8.7 billion gallons per day from surface and underground supplies, according to state data. Electric power plants are the biggest users, taking 6.5 billion gallons daily, according to 2010 data.
In comparison, it will take an entire year for natural gas drilling to consume about 5.2 billion gallons in Ohio.
Water, sand and chemicals are mixed and forced into wells under high pressure to fracture the earth, releasing natural gas. Water also is used to prepare cement that lines the wells, mix chemicals and control dust on roads.