Water Use

"The drilling and hydraulic fracturing of a horizontal shale gas well may typically require 2 to 4 million gallons of water, with about 3 million gallons being most common."

Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: A Primer

A significant challenge of fracking operations is securing water supplies while protecting water resources. Drilling companies work with local water planning agencies and the public to ensure that oil and gas operations do not disrupt local community water needs.

Water for hydraulic fracturing may be obtained from:

  • surface water,
  • groundwater,
  • municipal water suppliers,
  • treated wastewater from municipal and industrial treatment facilities,
  • power plant cooling water, and/or
  • recycled produced water and/or flow back water.

The choice will depend upon volume and water quality requirements, regulatory and physical availability, competing uses, and characteristics of the formation to be fractured (including water quality and compatibility considerations). If possible, wastewater from other industrial facilities or re-cycled fracking water is used. Followed by ground and surface water sources -- with the preference of non-potable sources over potable sources.

"To put shale gas water use in perspective, the consumptive use of fresh water for electrical generation in the Susquehanna River Basin alone is nearly 150 million gallons per day, while the projected total demand for peak Marcellus Shale activity in the same area is 8.4 million gallons per day."

Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: A Primer

Although the water needed for drilling and fracking operations may represent a small volume relative to other requirements, withdrawals associated with large-scale developments, conducted over multiple years, may have a cumulative impact to watersheds and/or groundwater.

This potential cumulative impact can be minimized or avoided by working with local water resource managers to develop a plan of when and where withdrawals will occur.