Ceres research report Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Stress (found at www.ceres.org/shalemaps) analyzes escalating water demand in hydraulic fracturing operations across the United States and western Canada. It evaluates oil and gas company water use in eight regions with intense shale energy development. The research is based on well data available at FracFocus.org and water stress indicator maps developed by the World Resources Institute. The analysis is based on hydraulic fracturing water-use data from 39,294 oil and shale gas wells hydraulically fractured and as reported to the website FracFocus.org. The research shows that 97 billion gallons of water were used, nearly half of it in Texas, followed by Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Colorado and North Dakota. Nearly half of the wells hydraulically fractured since 2011 were in regions with high or extremely high water stress and over 55 percent were in areas experiencing drought. Over 36 percent of the hydraulically fractured wells 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 for hydraulic fracturing operations during the report’s study 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. The report also provides recommendations for mitigating exposure to water sourcing risks.