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Fracking Uses How Much Water? New Study Discovers the True Amount

First Posted: Sep 17, 2015 09:11 AM EDT

How much water does fracking really use? Scientists have taken a closer look, and found that energy companies used nearly 250 billion gallons of water to extract shale gas and oil from hydraulically fractured wells in the United States between 2005 and 2014.

In this latest study, the researchers culled data for their analysis from multiple sources, including the U.S. Energy Information Administration, state agencies, industry reports, the FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry, and DrillingInfo.com. While they only looked at U.S. data, it's possible that the finding could project future water use and wastewater volume elsewhere.

So what did they find? During the period of 2005 to 2014, fracked well generated about 210 billion gallons of wastewater. With that said, the water used in fracking makes up less than one percent of total industrial water use nationwide.

While fracking an unconventional shale gas or oil well takes much more water than drilling a conventional oil and gas well, compared to other energy extraction methods, fracking is less water-intensive in the long run.

"Water use and wastewater production are two of the chief environmental concerns voiced about hydraulic fracturing,," said Avner Vengosh, one of the researchers in a news release. "Yet until now we've had only a fragmented and incomplete understanding of how much water is actually being used, and how much wastewater is being produced."

With that said, there are still concerns when it comes to fracking.

"While hydraulic fracturing consumes only a small fraction of the water used in other extraction methods, our analysis highlights the fact that it can still pose serious risks to local water supplies, especially in drought-prone regions such as the Barnett formation in Texas, where exploration and development is rapidly intensifying," said Andrew Kondash, one of the researchers. "Drilling a single well can require between three to six million gallons of water, and thousands of wells are fracked each year. Local water shortages could limit future production."

In addition, steps should be taken to limit the amount of wastewater coming from fracking. These findings highlight the importance of taking steps to limit the waste from fracking.

The findings are published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

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