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Fracking’s Water Footprint To Rise ‘Substantially’ By 2030

No doubt we’ve all heard of the term ‘fracking’ before, but do we actually know exactly what it is and how it could be affecting the planet now and well into the future? Also known as hydraulic fracturing, the process is used to extract gas and oil from shale rock by drilling down into the earth and then injecting sand, water and chemicals into rock at high pressure.

 

This means that gas is allowed to flow out to the head of the well, but it is a very polarising topic because the practice has been linked to causing earthquakes, can contaminate water and even increase the rate of climate change thanks to methane leaks from industry sites.

 

And now a new study from Duke University over in the US has found that if rapid intensification of fracking continues, its water footprint could increase by up to 50 times in some regions by the year 2030, which has given rise to worries regarding its sustainability, especially in places where groundwater supplies are limited or stressed and in arid-or semi-arid regions in western states in the US.

 

The study found that the amount of water used per well for fracking rose by up to 770 per cent between 2011 and 2016 in all major shale gas and oil production regions in the US.

 

Lead author of the paper Andrew Kondash commented on the findings, saying: “New drilling technologies and production strategies have spurred exponential growth in unconventional oil and gas production in the United States and, increasingly, in other parts of the world. This study provides the most accurate baseline yet for assessing the long-term environmental impacts this growth may have, particularly on local water availability and wastewater management.”

 

Professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment Avner Vengosh went on to add that although previous research shows that fracking doesn’t use significantly more water than other sources of energy, the findings back then were based on aggregated data from the early years of fracking operations.

 

After more than ten years of fracking, there is now a lot more data to look at from numerous different sources. Mr Vengosh explained that a “steady annual increase in hydraulic fracturing’s water footprint” can be seen, with 2014 and 2015 representing a turning point where usage of water and the “generation of flowback and produced water began to increase at significantly higher rates”.

 

Chief executive of UK Onshore Oil and Gas Ken Cronin, however, told the Independent that in the UK they’re now working with the water industry to minimise the impact of onshore development in this country in order to reduce fracking’s impact on water resources and the environment.

 

He further added that water usage in fracking is “negligible” when compared to use in other sectors and industry processes.

 

If you want to find out how to reduce your water usage today, get in touch with the team at H2O Building Services.