But many more companies connected to fracking face long-term water sourcing risks, according to the non-profit. These include the top three service providers, Halliburton, Schlumberger and Baker Hughes, which handle about half of the water used for fracking in the US. Investors also have exposure to these risks.
Nearly half of the wells hydraulically fractured since 2011 were in regions with high or extremely high water stress, and over 55 percent were in areas experiencing drought, Ceres found.
The organization says its report, Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Stress: Water Demand by the Numbers, provides the first-ever data on oil and gas companies’ water use and exposure to the most water stressed regions, including those in Texas, Colorado and California.
Ceres issued recommendations for companies to reduce their exposure and improve their water management, including:
- Disclose total water volumes and sources used in each shale play, as well as future sourcing needs and plans for reducing water use
- Collaborate with industry peers and other industries on local water sourcing challenges
- Minimize the use of aquifer exemptions and deep well injection disposal sites where feasible
- Embed water risk and opportunity across all business units, from the boardroom to the drill site.
In December, the San Antonio Express-News reported that fracking in drought-stricken South Texas used more than 14 billion gallons of water in 2012 – a number far greater than estimates of what the Eagle Ford Shale oil play might use in the next decade.
But a study published last December found that transitioning from coal to natural gas in Texas for electricity generation is saving water and making the state less vulnerable to drought, even taking into account fracking’s significant water footprint.
Takeaway: Drillers, investors and service companies alike must address the high water risk exposure they face because of fracking operations, according to a new report.
Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.
Chart credit: Ceres