• May 3, 2013

This Ceres research paper analyzes water use in hydraulic fracturing operations across the United States and the extent to which this activity is taking place in water stressed regions. It provides an overview of efforts underway, such as the use of recycled water and nonfreshwater resources, to mitigate these impacts and suggests key questions that industry, water managers and investors should be asking. The research is based on well data available at FracFocus.org and water stress indicator maps developed by the World Resources Institute.

The research paper provides valuable insights about potential water use/water supply conflicts and risks, especially in basins with intense hydraulic fracturing activity and water supply constraints (due to water stress and/or drought). Given projected sharp increases in production in the coming years and the potentially intense nature of local water demands, competition and conflicts over water should be a growing concern for companies, policymakers and investors.

The bottom line: shale energy development cannot grow without water, but in order to do so the industry’s water needs and impacts need to be better understood, measured and managed. A key question investors should be asking is whether water management planning is getting sufficient attention from both industry and regulators.

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