Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Mark Williams

Second Advisor

Dale Miller

Third Advisor

Shemin Ge


In response to the increased use of hydraulic fracturing in the US the extraction of natural gas has drastically expanded in the last decade. This has sparked controversy surrounding the potential environmental impacts of this industry on groundwater and surface water quality. This honors thesis explores the potential sources for water contamination through a review of the existing literature. The findings suggest that water may become contaminated from stray gas migration, surface spills, wastewater treatment, and improperly sealed well casings. The fundamental problem surrounding this controversial issue is the lack of baseline water quality data. The second aspect of this thesis is to establish a water quality baseline for the North Fork Valley in Delta County, Colorado where there is proposed oil and gas drilling. My hypothesis is that the aquifers are not interacting with oil and gas bearing formations. I collected samples in September of 2014 following the protocol outlined by the Colorado Water and Energy Research Center (CWERC), and tested for 26 different analytes. These results were then compared to historical data collected in the area by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the Western Slope Conservation Center (WSCC), and a previous test done by one well owner. The baseline represents a summary of forty groundwater samples, eleven springs, and twenty-nine surface water samples.