Hydraulic Fracturing & Water Stress


Hydraulic Fracturing & Water Stress: Water Demand by the Numbers

Shareholder, Lender & Operator Guide to Water Sourcing
A Ceres Report Authored by Monika Freyman
February 2014

Hydraulic Fracturing & Water Stress: Water Demand by the Numbers The sustainability NGO Ceres has published a comprehensive report on the volumes of water used for hydraulic fracturing by specific companies in major oil and gas plays in the US and Canada in the context of local water stress, groundwater depletion and drought.

Among the key findings:

  • Nearly half (47%) of oil and gas wells recently hydraulically fractured in the US are in regions with high or extremely high water stress.
  • More than 55% all US wells are in areas experiencing drought.
  • 36% percent of all U.S. wells are in areas experiencing groundwater depletion.

The report details volumes of water used by specific companies and reports on regions of intense shale development including Eagle Ford Play (Texas), Permian Basin (Texas & New Mexico), Denver-Julesburg Basin (Colorado), The Marcellus (Pennsylvania & West Virginia), and California. Recommendations to mitigate water risk are included.

From the Executive Summary:

“Shale development in many regions is highly reliant on groundwater resources, which are generally less regulated than surface waters, thus increasing risks of water resource depletion and water competition. Over 36 percent of the 39,294 hydraulically fractured wells in our study overlay regions experiencing groundwater depletion.
“Company exposure to shale water risks is best understood at the county or municipal levels. In many instances, well development was concentrated in just a few counties for each play, with water use for hydraulic fracturing in these regions often exceeding annual water use by local residents. In California, North Dakota’s Bakken play and Colorado’s Denver-Julesburg basin, most of the hydraulic fracturing wells were concentrated in three or fewer counties. Over 30 different counties used at least one billion gallons of water (roughly equivalent to daily water use of eight million people in New York City) for hydraulic fracturing operations during the report’s study period. Dimmit County, Texas in the Eagle Ford play had the largest volume of water use for hydraulic fracturing nationally—about four billion gallons. Garfield and Weld counties in Colorado and Karnes County in Texas were the highest water use counties in regions with extreme water stress—each using over two billion gallons of water for hydraulic fracturing over the multi-year period.
“This trend highlights the oftentimes intense and localized nature of shale development, which creates challenges for smaller counties that often lack resources to manage water availability constraints.”

Download the complete report at www.ceres.org.