Development of the shale gas sector could be compromised by critical water shortages in key areas, according to new a report by the World Resource Institute (WRI) that warns almost 40% of shale gas sites are in arid or water-stressed regions.
The Global Shale Gas Development: Water Availability & Business Risks report studied the controversial and water-intensive practice of hydraulic fracturing, used to extract shale gas or oil, in 20 countries, finding that 38% of available resources are in areas at high risk of water stress.
Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the WRI said, “Water risk is one of the most important, but underappreciated challenges when it comes to shale gas development. With 386 million people living on land above shale plays, governments and business face critical choices about how to manage their energy and water needs.
“This analysis should serve as a wake-up call for countries seeking to develop shale gas. Energy development and responsible water management must go hand in hand.”
The study puts forward some key recommendations for how businesses and governments to address these risks, suggesting they conduct water risk assessments to understand local water availability, improve transparency, ensure water governance to guarantee water security and minimise freshwater use.
The report’s lead author Paul Reig added, “With many countries already facing arid conditions and high water stress around the globe, this report can help to ensure that there’s enough water available for industries, farms, and people, even if shale development advances.
“Thankfully, there are smart and practical steps that countries and businesses can take to help reduce the water risks posed by future shale development”.
Earlier this year, research by responsible investors network Ceres warned of potential high risks for investors and companies involved in shale gas development in water stressed regions of the US and Canada.
The report has been released during World Water Week, an awareness-raising event held in Stockholm, which is exploring the relationship between energy and water and how the two depend on each other to thrive. Fracking is among the issues explored at the event.
Photo: C European Union 2012 via Flickr