Marcellus Exploration Drives River Monitoring Programs in PA

Farm and Dairy
by Chris Kick

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s two largest river basins — the Susquehanna and the Ohio — are not just irrigation and drinking-water sources for millions of people downstream. They also have become fountains of information channeling streams of water-quality data to researchers worldwide.

Regional challenge

Remote sensors dot these waterways to collect and transmit observations through several networks to regional monitoring outposts, partially in response to the increased intensity of Marcellus shale gas exploration.

Additional sensors are being deployed throughout river systems statewide to widen the networks and deepen the data pool in anticipation of increased water use and the potential for widespread contamination due to gas-extraction activities.

“As the Marcellus industry relates to a footprint in the basin, there is going to be use of a significant amount of water, plus additives and return water that could potentially contain a whole host of contaminants that can affect water quality,” said Andrew Gavin, a hydrologist with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC).

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