HARRISBURG - Due to extremely low streamflows throughout the Susquehanna basin, 17 separate water withdrawals approved by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission have been temporarily suspended, as of Wednesday.
Three of those suspensions affect natural gas companies working in Lycoming County, according to Susan Obleski, an SRBC spokesperson.
"As a result of low streamflows in many portions of the basin, 17 individual water withdrawals affecting 10 companies in five Pennsylvania counties have been temporarily suspended by virtue of the commission's passby flow restrictions. The majority of those suspended withdrawals are related to water for natural gas development," said SRBC Executive Director Paul Swartz.
"We're seeing the streamflows throughout the Susquehanna basin ranging from 50 percent to 75 percent below normal for this time of the year. That's due to below normal rainfalls for the past 90 days," Obleski said.
Because of these low streamflows, EXCO Resources must stop withdrawing water from Muncy Creek, Keystone Clearwater Solutions at Lycoming Creek, and XTO Energy at Lick Run and Little Muncy Creek. Hughesville-Wolf Township Joint Municipal Authority is also affected for wastewater.
EXCO Resources, a natural gas and oil company, encompasses 23 counties in Pennsylvania, according to their website (excoresources.com).
"Drilling, completion and production activities target the Marcellus hale and the Upper Devonian Venango, Bradford and Elk sandstone groups at depths of 1,800 to 8,100 feet," according to the website.
Keystone Clearwater Solutions, LLC, was one of 31 water use and withdrawal projects the SRBC approved last June which withdraws surface water from Lycoming Creek "up to 1.292 million gallons per day for bulk water sale for natural gas well development," according to srbc.net.
The company provides "water transfer (and) frac support services and water supply (and) turnkey water intake construction/management for Marcellus & Utica Shale operators," according to keystoneclear.net.
XTO Energy, Inc., a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, is another of the SRBC's approved projects and withdraws surface water from Lick Run and Little Muncy Creek each "up to 249,000 gpd to develop and complete natural gas wells," according to the SRBC.
The SRBC may issue more water withdrawals suspensions if conditions continue.
"If rainfall shortages persist, the commission anticipates more water withdrawals being suspended, as was the case in 2010 and 2011. The commission does not wait for drought declarations to temporarily halt water withdrawals. Our science-based stream protection system kicks in well before streams drop to critical low levels," Swartz said.
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, Obleski said.
SRBC and its regulated project sponsors monitor real-time streamflow data generated by stream gages maintained and operated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Based on unseasonably low streamflow conditions, SRBC's passby requirements actually began kicking in as early as February 2012 for certain water withdrawals in northern Pennsylvania, Obleski said.
Regulated project sponsors are required to install tamper-proof water meters that automatically record their water withdrawals on a daily basis. SRBC also monitors the USGS gages daily to determine which ones have triggered, and SRBC's field staff conducts frequent spot-inspections to verify compliance with passby requirements.
Companies and their water withdrawal sources in Pennsylvania temporarily suspended yesterday:
EXCO Resources: Muncy Creek at McClintock
Hughesville-Wolf Township Joint Municipal Authority: wastewater from treatment plant
Keystone Clearwater Solutions: Lycoming Creek
XTO Energy: Lick Run, Little Muncy Creek
Chesapeake Energy: Sugar Creek
Healthy Properties: Sugar Creek
Talisman Energy: Fall Brook at Bense, Seeley Creek at Jones, Sugar Creek at Hoffman, Wappasening Creek at Adriance, unnamed tributary to North Branch Sugar Creek
Tennessee Gas Pipeline: Towanda Creek
Eagle Rock Community Association: Abandoned Quarry associated with unnamed tributary to Tomhicken Creek
Carrizo: unnamed tributary to Middle Branch Wyalusing Creek
Keystone Clearwater Solutions: Babb Creek
Tennessee Gas Pipeline: unnamed tributary of North Elk Run