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Research Project Description

Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing Activities on the Quality and Quantity of Drinking Water R
Research Participation Program
Office of Research and Development
National Center for Environmental Assessment
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Arlington, VA


Project Description:

A postgraduate or postdoctoral research project training opportunity is currently available at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Center for Environmental Assessment (NCEA). The appointments will be served in Arlington, Virginia.

NCEA coordinates high priority, science based assessments for EPA. Examples include the EPA’s Mountaintop Mining Assessment, the First Triennial Biofuels Report to Congress, and the draft Bristol Bay Assessment. NCEA is now coordinating the development of EPA’s hydraulic fracturing drinking water assessment report. The project is a collaborative effort with ORD laboratories located throughout the country, with scientists from the Office of Water, and multiple EPA regional offices.

The purpose of this research opportunity is to: 1)  assess the potential pathways for hydraulic fracturing activities to change the quality or quantity of drinking water resources; 2) identify factors that affect the frequency and severity of impacts; and, 3) suggest ways that potential impacts may be avoided or reduced.

The central focus of this project is to identify how hydraulic fracturing potentially impacts the quality and quantity of drinking water resources. Specific research components focus on the hydraulic fracturing water cycle, including:

  • The acquisition of water for hydraulic fracturing
  • Mixing of water on site with chemicals needed for hydraulic fracturing
  • Injection into the well under high pressures
  • Capturing the hydraulic fracturing fluid flowback or produced formation water
  • Disposal or treatment of wastewater

The research participant will join EPA scientists in the development of the hydraulic fracturing drinking water assessment report. This will allow the research participant to gain experience with a scientific team and gain experience in taking part in identifying, reviewing, and evaluating scientific literature in the development of an assessment report. S/he will learn and contribute to summarizing data and information from different sources and presenting synthetic views of the information in written, tabular, and graphic form. S/he will learn the process of planning and coordinating an assessment with an interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers to evaluate how hydraulic fracturing activities potentially impact the quality and quantity of drinking water resources in the United States.

The participant will learn: (1) how to identify and retrieve scientific literature and data that has the potential to inform the development of this assessment report; (2) how to critically evaluate literature, summarize key results, and then integrate key results from multiple sources into a synthetic picture; (3) how assessment activities are different from primary research and how both are needed to accomplish EPA’s mission;  (4) how EPA science assessments can inform decision-makers; and, (5) how to work and collaborate in an interdisciplinary setting.

This research training opportunity will provide an exceptional professional development opportunity. The candidate will have access to a team of experts collaborating in and across disciplines (hydrologists, chemists, geologists, engineers, modelers, risk assessment scientists) on a high priority issue of critical importance to EPA’s mission.

For each of the five components of the water cycle, specific research questions have been identified by EPA. The participant will be provided the opportunity to participate on one or more of these research questions.


Applicants must have received a master’s or doctoral degree include hydrology, geohydrology or engineering within five years of the desired starting date, or completion of all requirements for the degree should be expected prior to the starting date. A background in waste water treatment is desired.

The program is open to all qualified individuals without regard to race, sex, religion, color, age, physical or mental disability, national origin, or status as a Vietnam era or disabled veteran. U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent resident status is preferred (but can also hold an appropriate visa status, however, an H1B visa is not appropriate).

The appointment is full-time for one year and may be renewed upon recommendation of EPA and subject to availability of funds. The participant will receive a monthly stipend. Funding may be made available to reimburse a research participant's travel expenses to present the results of his/her research at scientific conferences. No funding will be made available to cover travel costs for pre-appointment visits, relocation costs, tuition and fees, or a participant's health insurance. The participant must show proof of health and medical insurance. The participant does not become an EPA employee.

Technical Questions:

The contact for this project is Dr. Caroline Ridley. She can be contacted at

How to Apply:

An application can be found at Please reference Project #EPA-ORD-DC-2013-01 when calling or writing for information.