Fracking potential risk to 'fragile' UK water supply

The water industry has expressed its concerns over the Government's announcement that fracking for shale gas will resume in the UK.

Potential pollution of groundwater and the heavy water intensity of hydraulic fracturing are the main concerns being stressed by water organisations.

Waterwise, an NGO that focuses on decreasing water consumption in the UK, has voiced its fears that  fracking could have a potentially damaging effect on groundwater supplies.

Managing director of Waterwise Jacob Tompkins told edie: "The good thing about groundwater is that generally it is very clean, but once it is contaminated, it is unbelievably difficult to remediate.

"It's like trying to get a drop of water out of a sponge - how are we going to rehabilitate these aquifers? If you wanted to create the level of underground storage we have, the cost would run to tens of billions."

He added: "The asset that we have in our groundwater is amazing and phenomenally valuable and will be more so with the pressures of climate change. This means greater pressures on agriculture and greater pressures on water resources. The fact we are risking that without a proper scientific basis is concerning."

Despite this, Tompkins insists he is not anti-frackng, claiming he just needs to see the evidence that it will not have a detrimental effect on Britain's water supply.

"The Government prides itself on evidence based policy making - where is the evidence?" Tompkins asked.

He added: "There's a huge amount of water you need to use. You're injecting water of different chemistries into different aquifers."

Tompkins claimed that there were examples of water pollution that can be directly linked to fracking in the US and argued that at a time when the UK's water supply is extremely fragile, risks should not be taken.

"Given that our chalk sandstone and limestone aquifers are one of our major assets that save us in the face of drought - they are phenomenally valuable -the fact that we are potentially threatening these for short-term energy is worrying."

The water and wastewater trade association, WaterUK, has been working closely with the Environment Agency, helping them review the Government's new regulations on fracking.

WaterUK policy and business advisor Jim Marshall had also been concerned about protecting ground water but said he was "reasonably confident at this stage that the regulations are there."

However, he still had worries over how the regulations would be enforced and suggested that nothing was certain when delving into such unchartered territory.

"It's a case of how regulation is enforced and we are going to have to step up to the mark to make sure it is done," said Marshall.

"The test will be once there are multiple sites going and how that regulation will be enforced".

"I'm confident that the regulation is there but you can never be confident that there won't be an accident. That's obviously always going to be the big unknown - there will always be that little bit of concern in the back of my mind," he added.

Conor McGlone


agriculture | drought | fracking | gas | Hydraulic Fracturing | Shale gas


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