Forest Service Withdraws Proposed Groundwater Directive

On May 7, 2014, the Forest Service published an action proposing to amend its internal Agency directives for the National Forest System (NFS) to establish direction for management of groundwater resources on NFS lands.  The proposed amendment was intended to provide internal Agency direction on the consideration of groundwater resources in Agency activities, approvals, and authorizations; encourage source water protection and water conservation; establish systematic procedures for reviewing new proposals for groundwater withdrawals on NFS lands; and require the evaluation of potential impacts from groundwater withdrawals on public resources on NFS lands.

States and a number of other organizations raised concerns that the proposed directive would exceed the Agency’s authorities and infringe on state authorities to allocate water.  While maintaining that the proposed directives did not, and any future actions will not, infringe on state authority, the Forest Service has withdrawn the proposed directive and announced that next steps would be to establish a clearer and more consistent approach to evaluating and monitoring the effects of actions on groundwater resources of the National Forest System.  The Agency plans to have further discussions with key sectors and the public on this issue.  The Notice of Withdrawal appears in the June 19th Federal Register (80 FR 35299).


EPA Releases Draft Assessment of Hydraulic Fracturing Impacts to Drinking Water Sources

On June 4, EPA released its “Draft Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources.”  The assessment is based on EPA’s study and follows the water used for hydraulic fracturing from water acquisition, chemical mixing at the well pad site, well injection of fracking fluids, the collection of hydraulic fracturing wastewater (including flowback and produced water), and wastewater treatment and disposal.  State regulators, tribes, local communities, and industry can use the information in the assessment to identify the best ways to protect public health and their drinking water resources from hydraulic fracturing practices.

EPA’s assessment found some specific instances where well integrity and waste water management related to hydraulic fracturing activities impacted drinking water resources, but these numbers were relatively small compared to the large number of hydraulically fractured wells across the country. The report provides valuable information about potential vulnerabilities to drinking water resources, though some are not unique to hydraulic fracturing.

These vulnerabilities to drinking water resources include:

  • Water withdrawals in areas with low water availability;
  • Hydraulic fracturing conducted directly into formations containing drinking water resources;
  • Inadequately cased or cemented wells resulting in below ground migration of gases and liquids;
  • Inadequately treated wastewater discharged into drinking water resources; and
  • Spills of hydraulic fluids and hydraulic fracturing wastewater, including flowback and produced water.

The Federal Register Notice with information on the SAB review and how to comment on the draft assessment will be published on Friday June 5, 2015.  For a copy of the study, visit  To submit comments on the report, go to: