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Fracking May Face Severe Water Competition

Shale stressHydraulic fracturing companies working to develop shale gas may encounter intense competition for water, as 38 percent of the world’s shale resources are either under extremely high water stress or facing arid conditions, according to a report by the World Resources Institute.

The report ranks water stress across the 20 countries with the largest shale resources.

The report also evaluates water availability for every shale play in the 11 countries either pursuing or most likely to pursue hydraulic fracturing: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Mexico, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the US. However, since water availability and shale resources vary by country, the potential for hydraulic fracturing is unique in almost every location.

The report offers four recommendations to help governments, companies, and civil societies protect water security while minimizing business risks:

  • Conduct water risk assessments to understand local water availability and reduce business risk.
  • Increase transparency and engage with local regulators, communities, and industry to minimize uncertainty.
  • Ensure adequate water governance to guarantee water security and reduce regulatory and reputational risks.
  • Minimize freshwater use and engage in corporate water stewardship to reduce impacts on water availability.

Seven indicators were used to evaluate water availability and the associated business risks for shale development: Water stress, water-supply variation among months of the year, drought severity, groundwater depletion rates, largest water user, population density and depth of shale reserve.

Last year, WRI launched the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas that maps water risks worldwide. The map was made available on Bloomberg earlier this year.

About 52 percent of the world’s projected 9.7 billion people will live in water-stressed regions by 2050, according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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