“We live in times where demand for water from multiple uses (drinking water, agriculture/food production, energy generation, various industrial purposes etc.) is increasing,” one of the report’s authors Andreas Lindström wrote in an email to Fortune. “These pressures are naturally felt most in areas where water is already scarce and shale gas resources are often found in dry areas prone to these water challenges. It can then be expected that large scale fracking operations will constitute a new prominent competitor for scarce water resources in certain areas adding to existing pressures.”
According to the WRI report, eight of the top 20 countries with the largest shale gas resources face arid conditions or high to extremely high baseline water stress where the shale resources are located. The list includes China, Algeria, Mexico, South Africa, Libya, Pakistan, Egypt and India. A similar story can be found with oil, where eight of the top 20 countries with the largest oil resources also face arid conditions. That list includes China, Libya, Mexico, Pakistan, Algeria, Egypt, India and Mongolia.
Neither the WRI nor the SIWI report called for a ban out fracking due to water shortages. But they both said companies need to factor water scarcity into their decision making when considering new drill sites and work closely with governments to disclose more clearly how much water they will use.
“This report and the data we are sharing is definitely going to inform governments that might decide to ban hydraulic fracturing because of already high levels of competition for water in a specific region,” Reig said. “But in other regions, you know, development of shale gas could be seen as a stepping stone to cleaner energy in the long run. At the WRI, we want to be realistic about the fact there is a large volume of this type of resource out there.”