Policy Update

First in Science: Fracking is Becoming More Water Intensive



NCEL Point of Contact

Ava Gallo
Climate and Energy Program Manager

Hydraulic Fracturing Practices Shown to Use More Water Over Time

Hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) has dramatically altered our energy economy. By injecting a mixture of fluids and chemicals into fossil fuel deposits at high pressure, the industry has been able to extract more oil and natural gas than ever before. However, the environmental impacts of this technology, ranging from drinking water contamination to air pollution, have raised concerns. A new study now has shown that fracking is altering our water resources.

The Study: Researchers at Duke University gathered data on drilling sites located in the six major fracking regions in the country. They collected information on the number of wells drilled, volumes of water withdrawal and wastewater produced for each well, amount oil and gas recovered, and the length of drilling activity over a five-year period.

The Results: Their analysis showed that water usage per well increased by as much as 770% in some regions. In fact, water usage and the amount of wastewater has increased at the same rate of oil and gas production. Since water that returns to the surface after injection is difficult to treat, reuse, or return back into water systems, the study concluded that there is an overall net-loss of usable water.