In addition to contaminating groundwater supplies and destabilizing fault lines, fracking is exacerbating water scarcity worldwide. Close to 40 percent of the world’s shale gas and tight oil resources are in areas that are either arid or under high to extremely high levels of water stress, according to a report released Tuesday by the World Resources Institute, a Washington, DC-based research organization.
As other nations begin to exploit these resources as the United States already has, “limited availability of freshwater could become a stumbling block,” the report says — a consequence environmentalists can only hope will come to fruition.
According to “Global Shale Development: Water Availability and Business Risks,” which analyzed data from the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, about 386 million people live on the land over these shale “plays” — geographic areas where companies are actively looking for, or have discovered, natural gas or oil underground — and in 40 percent of these resource areas, irrigated agriculture is the largest water user. Fracking, too, is a water-intensive practice, typically using between 2-7 million gallons of water per well.
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“Thus drilling and hydraulic fracturing often compete with other demands for freshwater, which can result in conflicts with other water users,” the report reads. “This is particularly true in areas of high baseline water stress, where over 40 percent of the available water supplies are already being withdrawn for agricultural, municipal, or industrial purposes.”
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