Modeling Changes to Streamflow, Sediment, and Nutrient Loading from Land Use Changes Due to Potential Natural Gas Development Academic Article uri icon


  • © 2017 American Water Resources Association Natural gas development using hydraulic fracturing has many potential environmental impacts, but among the most certain is the land disturbance required to build the well pads and other infrastructure required to drill and extract the gas. We used the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model to investigate how natural gas development could impact streamflow and sediment, total nitrogen (TN), and total phosphorous (TP) loadings in the upper Delaware River Basin (DRB), a relatively undeveloped watershed of 7,950 km2 that lies above the Marcellus Shale formation. If gas development was permitted, our projections show the DRB could experience development of over 600 well pads to extract natural gas at build out, which, with supporting infrastructure (roads, gathering pipelines), could convert over 5,000 ha from existing land uses in the study area. In subbasins with development activity we found sediment, TN, and TP yields could increase by an average of 15, 0.08, and 0.03 kg/ha/yr, respectively (an increase of 2, 3, and 15%, respectively) for each one percent of subbasin land area converted into natural gas infrastructure. At the study area outlet on the Delaware River at Port Jervis, New York, we found increases in the annual average streamflow and sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus loads of up to 0.01, 0.2, 0.2, and 1%, respectively, for a rapid development year, and 0.08, 1.3, 2.0, and 11%, respectively, for the full development scenario. Editor's note: This paper is part of the featured series on SWAT Applications for Emerging Hydrologic and Water Quality Challenges. See the February 2017 issue for the introduction and background to the series.

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Hanson, L., Habicht, S., Daggupati, P., Srinivasan, R., & Faeth, P.

citation count

  • 2

publication date

  • October 2017