Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Monitoring Groundwater in the Marcellus Shale Region

Project Details

Drilling Observation Water Wells in the Marcellus Shale Region of Western Maryland: What We’re Doing and Why it’s Important

The Marcellus Shale underlies a large region of the Appalachian Mountains from New York to eastern Tennessee, including Garrett and Allegany Counties in western Maryland. With the development of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) techniques, previously unrecoverable natural gas reserves within the Marcellus Shale can now be economically extracted. However, hydraulic fracturing and other activities associated with drilling and production of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale have the potential to cause detrimental environmental impacts. In order to determine whether future development activities cause changes to water quality and availability, a pre-drilling baseline of ground-water and surface-water data must be established.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources—Maryland Geological Survey (MGS), in cooperation with the United States Geological Survey (USGS), is developing a water monitoring program to evaluate ground-water and surface-water resources in the Maryland Appalachian Plateau. MGS is installing six ground-water observation wells near USGS stream-gaging stations within two watersheds in Garrett County. The USGS has installed a total of five stream gages in Garrett County for this project. The results of this investigation will augment the existing water-quality, water-level, and stream-flow data currently available in western Maryland.

Six observation wells will be drilled, consisting of pairs of wells at each of three locations. Paired wells will include one relatively shallow (~200 feet deep) and one relatively deep well (~800-1,000 feet deep). One well pair will be located next to a stream gage on Buffalo Run, about two miles northwest of Friendsville. The other two pairs will be located in the Savage River watershed southwest of Finzel: one pair will be located adjacent to a stream gage at the Savage River, while the other pair will be located in an upland area of the Savage River watershed.