event 27 Jul 2018

The Water‐Energy Nexus of Hydraulic Fracturing // A Global Hydrologic Analysis for Shale Oil and Gas Extraction

By: Lorenzo Rosa, Maria Cristina Rulli, Kyle Frankel Davis and Paolo D'Odorico. The authors present a global analysis of the impact of shale oil and gas extraction on water resources, particularly on irrigated crop production. Using a water balance analysis, they find that large areas underlain by shale deposits are either already affected by water stress or would become water stressed in the event that local water resources were to be used for shale oil or gas extraction.


In these areas, the extraction of shale oil and shale gas is expected to compete with irrigated food production and other human water demands. The development of unconventional oil and gas from shale in water stressed areas of the world would need to overcome water scarcity challenges and would likely enhance competition for water in agriculturally important areas.


Shale deposits are globally abundant and widespread. Extraction of shale oil and shale gas is generally performed through water‐intensive hydraulic fracturing. Despite recent work on its environmental impacts, it remains unclear where and to what extent shale resource extraction could compete with other water needs. Here the authors consider the global distribution of known shale deposits suitable for oil and gas extraction and develop a water balance model to quantify their impacts on local water availability for other human uses and ecosystem functions.

They find that 31–44% of the world's shale deposits are located in areas where water stress would either emerge or be exacerbated as a result of shale oil or gas extraction; 20% of shale deposits are in areas affected by groundwater depletion and 30% in irrigated land. In these regions shale oil and shale gas production would likely compete for local water resources with agriculture, environmental flows, and other water needs. By adopting a hydrologic perspective that considers water availability and demand together, decision makers and local communities can better understand the water and food security implications of shale resource development.


AGU100: Advancing Earth and Space Science website (PDF download)


6 April 2018


Earth's Future: An Open Access AGU Journal, Volume 6, Issue 5, May 2018, Pages 745-756. DOI.


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