There is appalling evidence and experience with contaminated aquifers, especially in the United States, where greed for the income for natural gas has combined with deregulation to create a monster called “Fracking”. Fracking is a process where the shale that contains the gas is bombarded with explosives and a chemical soup that is frightening.
The chemical soup is intended to get the most gas out of the shale as possible, and it contains substances that range from volatile and flammable to sufficent to cause illness and even death.
As a result, deep drilling and fracking operations are going on all over the US, with whole communities and areas experiencing such events as tap water that explodes into flame with little help; poisoned water and chemical ponds that leak and poison the aquifer even further.
The bottom line is that humans, plant life and animals depend on water. The most important group of threatened life forms are the plants, grasses and trees, simply because without them, there is no canopy to protect fertile soil from beating rains. With no canopy, the fertile soil erodes and washes or blows away until the land cannot support plant life. More and more layers strip away until no plant life can be sustained at all and more layers blow away until desertification occurs.
Humans and animals are next. With trouble looming that ranges from their houses burning down, to cancers and reproductive disorders that will carry for generations, it would not be surprising if the local governments have to condemn some areas while those who created the damage walk away, either tying up compensation and fines or refusing to pay for relocation or damages.
Other causes of problems for aquifers includes agricultural and landscaping fertilizer and industrial and home chemical releases that make their way into the aquifer through porous aquifer ground covers. This is why citizens of many places are being encouraged or required to use proper disposal methods when getting rid of electronics items and batteries, where the toxins in the batteries can get into the aquifers.
Of course, there are natural causes of aquifer contamination, including volcanic releases and eruptions, dead animals that release microorganisms, especially e-coli, and underground movement and shakings that release bubbles and pockets of natural gases or leach other chemical substances into the underground water supply.
But, one or two smaller and isolated communities at a time will inevitably suffer the consequences of the almost criminal collusion between US government and the US oil and gas and other industries at the turn of the century. Most industries in states where there is proactive government have been forced to change the ways in which they deal with waste and with aquifers. This is especially in the semi-arid and arid Western US, where water gets much more attention.
There are two major dangers of widespread oil and gas deep drilling and ‘fracking”. One is in the multitude of separate and small areas where fracking is being done, creating massive, but unpublicized damage when taken as a nationwide whole.
The other danger is in the chance that a large aquifer that supports a major urban center will become irrevocably and irreparably polluted or poisoned as a consequence, leaving hundreds of thousands or even a million or more to scramble for their water or to deal with flaming water taps and shower heads.