One of the least understood impacts of natural gas development is its impact on the water cycle.
We often hear about how much water is required to hydraulically fracture a well (as much as five million gallons) and how much of the water (as much 80%) stays underground. Many think this water is irretrievably lost, that is to say forever removed from the water cycle, because we are leaving it a mile or more underground. This is true, up to a point, but it’s far from the full story, because the combustion of natural gas yields water vapor that goes into the atmosphere, and a lots of it. It yields enough water, in fact, to more than replace what is lost in just a matter of months. It’s all a matter of chemistry – the kind we learned in high school. If you weren’t paying attention in class, you might find the whole idea rather fantastic, as some of our anti-gas friends do, but it’s about as basic as it gets and, yes, fire can produce water!