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Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Issue 1. Fracking uses too much water


No, actually quite insignificant, but needs to be taken account of in licensing and planning
Fracking does use a lot of water, but an insignificant amount compared with some other main uses. In The Environment Agency`s December 2008 assessment “Water resources in England and Wales - current state and future pressures”, we find that the UK uses about 60,000 megalitres per day, of which 35,000 megalitres per day is from freshwater sources (non-tidal surface waters and groundwater). About 10,000 megalitres per day of this freshwater are used in the generation of electricity, about 17,000 megalitres per day on domestic uses, and a further 3500 megalitres per day is wasted through leaking pipes, with the remainder accounted for by industry and agriculture. The UK’s water usage has been fairly constant from 2000 until 2008.

Peak water use for a mature shale gas industry has been robustly estimated to be about 15 megalitres per day (10 new wells and 40 laterals per year at 54.4 megalitres per well) which is supported by the Institute of Directors report “Getting shale gas working” 22 May 2013) in their calculation that a mature shale gas industry in the UK would use about 0.05% of the UK ground and surface waters per year.

However small the extraction, there is the possibility that fracking processes would stress further some location where there is already considerable water stress. This situation should be accounted for. The UK Government document Planning practice guidance for onshore oil and gas, which contains guidance on how shale gas (and other onshore oil and gas) developments should proceed through England’s planning system, explicitly recommends that planners should take water availability into account as a criterion for whether hydraulic fracturing should be licensed (Ref: ISBN 9781409839606 PDF, 579KB, 29 pages, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/planning-practice-guidance-for-onshore-oil-and-gas ).

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