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From Water Resources Extension:

Posted: August 1, 2010

Extension programs regarding drinking water and Marcellus gas drilling has played a key role in educating the public

Over three million rural residents of Pennsylvania rely on groundwater for their individual, home drinking water supplies.  Previous research at Penn State has shown that 41% of these water supplies fail safe drinking water standards.  Increased Marcellus gas drilling in rural areas represents another threat to these water supplies.  However, concern about gas well drilling among these water supply owners has created an opportunity to provide education on general water supply management in addition to awareness of  state gas drilling regulations and voluntary strategies that water supply owners can implement to protect groundwater from drilling.

Beginning in 2008, a team of nine Penn State Cooperative Extension educators and water specialists developed various educational resources to assist private water supply owners in understanding issues related to gas well drilling.  These resources included publications, a web site (http://extension.psu.edu/water/marcellus-shale), webinars, and workshops. 

To date, 140 workshops on Marcellus gas and water issues have been delivered to over 11,000 participants in 40 counties.  Nearly 2,000 participants at these programs completed an evaluation to document their opinions and planned actions. These evaluations resulted in the following opinions and actions:

• 85% of participants felt that the information delivered was factual and unbiased.  
• 64% planned on taking action to better construct and protect their drinking water supply.
• 61% planned on having a certified water testing lab visit their home to collect a chain-of-custody water sample before gas drilling.
• 72% planned to or already stipulated water resource protection items in their gas drilling lease agreement.
• 32% planned to hire a certified well driller to document the water yield from their well or spring prior to gas drilling activity.
• Over 1,000 water supply owners had their water tested at Penn State's accredited testing laboratory. Over 50% of these water tests documented pre-existing water quality problems before gas drilling occurred. 

Penn State Cooperative Extension provided a unique capability to rapidly reach a large, statewide audience with unbiased, research-based information on this controversial issue.  Extension’s educational response has been well received resulting in measurable impacts to private water supply owners in the Marcellus region of the state.  Extension continues to deliver similar programs while adapting to new questions and needs such as a new program to assist water supply owners in understanding complex pre-drilling and post-drilling water test reports.