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Shale Resources and Water Risks

Explore water availability across shale gas and tight oil resources.

Dozens of countries around the world are deciding whether or not to develop their shale gas and tight oil resources. However, extracting these energy sources poses environmental risks, especially to water.

Drilling and hydraulic fracturing requires up to 25 million liters of water per well, meaning shale resources can be hard to develop where freshwater is hard to find.

The risks and impacts specific to surface and groundwater availability have been thinly documented to date. This tool and the associated report:

Identify priority locations worldwide where freshwater management will be most critical if shale is developed.
Reveal potential business risks associated with freshwater availability to companies and build the case for corporate water stewardship and early source-water assessment.


This tool shares information that can create dialog among water users from industry, government, and civil society in river basins worldwide. It does not attempt to identify risks to water quality from shale resource development, nor does it assess the oil and gas industry’s water management practices.


Baseline water stress: The ratio of total water withdrawals to available renewable supply in an area. In high-stress areas, 40 percent or more of the available supply is withdrawn every year. In extremely high-stress areas, that number goes up to 80 percent or higher. A higher percentage means more water users are competing for limited supplies. See the high and extremely high-stress areas highlighted in red and dark red on the maps. For more detailed information, please see Aqueduct’s Global Maps 2.0 metadata document.
Hydraulic fracturing: A method of extraction for shale gas and tight oil resources. Fluid is pumped at high pressure down a well to create cracks in low-permeability geological formations. Natural gas and oil then flows from the cracks back into the well.
Shale play: Part of a shale basin that can be commercially extracted.
Shale gas: Natural gas deposit found in shale reservoirs, which are between ten and many thousands of times less permeable than conventional natural gas reservoirs.
Tight oil: Oil trapped in fine-grained sedimentary rocks with extremely low permeability, such as shale, sandstone, or carbonate
Technically recoverable resource: Shale oil or gas deposit that can be extracted with current technology, but does not consider economic viability.

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Data and Resources

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Spatial Extent

Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
Tiles by MapBox

Additional Info

Field Value
Last Updated October 9, 2014, 14:46 (EST)
Created October 9, 2014, 14:45 (EST)
Netl Product no
Organization Acronym WRI
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