Fracking may add risk to SA’s drinking water supply, study finds

BY TAI CHISHAKWE - SEPTEMBER 15, 2014

A new study by the World Resources Institute has found that many places with water scarcity are using too much of their resources on fracking.

"Eight of the top 20 countries with the largest shale gas resources face arid conditions or high to extremely high baseline water stress where the shale resources are located; this includes China, Algeria, Mexico, South Africa, Libya, Pakistan, Egypt, and India," the study states.

South Africa is on number 8 on the list and is at a high risk of baseline water stress the study found (see the graphic below).

To drill a fracking well takes 5 million gallons of water, on average. The study says 386 million people across the wold live on land above shale plays. Thus drilling and hydraulic fracturing often compete with other demands for freshwater, which can result in conflicts with other water users.

This is particularly true in areas of high baseline water stress, where over 40 percent of the available water supplies are already being withdrawn for agricultural, municipal, or industrial purposes.

The report recommends water risk assessments before drilling, increased transparency of fracking company actions, cooperation between companies and governments and lowering freshwater use in fracking.