Chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) have attracted the most attention from people wary of the well stimulation practice, but water consumption is another worry of fracking skeptics, as evidenced by to two recent reports.

The environmentalist-friendly Pacific Institute of Oakland, CA, and Western Resource Advocates of Boulder, CO, each have come out with separate reports that assert that water use for fracking is a serious issue.

The Pacific Institute cites “growing controversy” over fracking in the past few years. “More and better research is needed to clearly assess the key water-related risks associated with hydraulic fracturing and develop sound policies to minimize those risks,” said the institute’s Heather Cooley, co-director of the water program.

Meanwhile, Western Resource Advocates is sounding alarms over fracking’s water usage. “It’s clear that we need to take a step back and make sure we aren’t over-allocating our most important natural resource one frack job at a time,” said the group’s Laura Belanger, water resources and environmental engineer.

Western Resource Advocates said it has calculated that fracking in Colorado uses 22,100-39,500 acre feet of water per year, which is enough to meet the needs of more than 296,000 people.

Last summer the leading producing state — where a lot of fracking has been done in the Barnett and Eagle Ford shales — was in the midst of a record-setting drought. While concerns were raised about water use for fracking, no serious problems materialized. Fort Worth spokesman Bill Begley said at the time: “We’ve had a lot of people asking us about water usage as far as natural gas drilling and fracking and the whole process. What we’ve been told is the natural gas process uses about 1% of our water usage in the city. The vast majority of it is residential, and a lot of that is lawn watering” (see Shale Daily, Aug. 31, 2011).

A water manager working in the Eagle Ford Shale region last summer told NGI’s Shale Daily that producers were doing a good job reporting their water usage to aid resource planning efforts (see Shale Daily, Aug. 11, 2011).