Just days after Prime Minister David Cameron offered local authorities a tax break for approving fracking projects in their area, a study has been released addressing the impact of shale gas extraction on water supplies.
As part of the Prime Minister’s pledge, councils would receive 100% of the business rates collected from drilling schemes (double the usual 50%).
The Government said that shale gas has the potential to generate billions for the economy, support around 74,000 jobs and can “guarantee energy supplies”.
Environmental campaigners Greenpeace inevitably criticized the move, claiming that the scheme is a “naked attempt by the Government to bribe hard councils into accepting fracking in their area”.
Meanwhile, an extensive study published today by the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) has assessed the likely viability, scale and timing of shale gas exploitation in the UK.
The study found that “compared to other fossil fuels, the overall water use intensity of shale gas is low" and "claims by some opponents that the industry represents a threat to the security of public water supplies are alarmist”.
It was in December 2013 when water industry body Water UK and the UK Onshore Operators Group (UKOOG) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to cooperate throughout the shale gas exploration and extraction process.
A key aim of the signed MoU was to give the public “greater confidence and reassurance that everything will be done to minimise the effects on water resources and the environment”.
At the time Water UK said it had reviewed recent reports into shale gas extraction and said that “while there are potential risks to water and wastewater services, these can be mitigated given proper enforcement of the regulatory framework”.
CIWEM said that today’s study “found that at the exploratory phase water demand is not likely to be significant compared to other users and it is likely that operators will continue to source water on a site by site basis depending on where the closest source is and how easy it is to transfer”.
Estimates show that to meet 10% of the UK gas demand from shale gas over 20 years would require 1.2 - 1.6 million m3 water per year3. When compared to the volume of water that is licensed to be taken from the environment each year in England and Wales, it equates to less than 1/10th of one per cent of total abstraction.
CIWEM’s interim chief executive, Nigel Hendley said: “The recent Memorandum of Understanding between the industry groups UKOOG and Water UK should assist in planning water resources in the future for the industry.
“However CIWEM would like to see this taken a step further with water and sewerage companies becoming statutory consultees in the shale gas planning process regardless of whether they are to continue to provide and treat water for the industry. This would give water and sewerage companies the ability to ensure that they are able to deliver their duties and safeguard a resilient water supply system for the future.”
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