Hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – is the process of extracting oil or gas from underground shale rock by using high pressure water to fracture the rock, allowing the oil or gas to be extracted.
There are a number of potential sites where this can take place across our region and we recognise some customers may have concerns about the possible impacts of fracking. We also acknowledge the potential economic benefits and the need to secure energy supplies.
Providing water and wastewater services in a manner that protects the environment and the health of our customers is our top priority. To do this we work to ensure we can maintain safe, sustainable supplies of high quality drinking water and meet strict standards for treating wastewater.
We neither support nor oppose fracking but do play an important role in the application process. We are a statutory consultee on planning applications for oil and gas exploration when proposals are near to our sources. Applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis and consider a number of different factors to make a robust, evidence-based recommendation to planning authorities.
The water industry is committed to working responsibly with energy companies through a Memorandum of Understanding between the trade bodies representing both sectors – Water UK and UK Onshore Oil and Gas.
As a statutory water and wastewater undertaker we must be consulted on any application for fracking in our region. We do not have control over whether fracking takes place, but can make a recommendation to the planning authority.
We will consider all applications on a case by case basis and will take an evidence based approach to each application. When considering applications the protection of water sources, public health and the environment will be our primary concerns.
When asked to respond to an application for fracking we will consider the geology of the region, the site’s proximity to water sources, if additional water resources are needed for the site and if we will need to modify nearby water treatment works. We will make our assessment in the context of industry and regulatory guidance – including from the Environment Agency and Natural England.
The planning authority – usually the County Council – will take all recommendations, submissions and evidence it deems relevant into account when making its decision on the application.
Securing reliable, sustainable supplies of safe, clean drinking water is crucial to protecting public health and the environment. When considering any application we will consider any and all potential impacts on drinking water sources.
The South East is a water scarce area and the amount of water needed for each site will be taken into account when we consider an application.
We expect that some sites will apply for their own abstraction licenses – the same way that businesses are permitted to take water from the environment – and we will emphasise that public supply must take priority.
A strong regulatory framework is in place to ensure that wastewater is treated to very high standards before being released to the environment. Likewise, drilling for oil and gas is tightly regulated. We welcome a strong regulatory framework around fracking as this ensures customers and the environment are protected.
If required, we will work with companies and the Environment Agency to determine the most appropriate way of treating the wastewater from sites and whether our treatment works would need to be modified.
There are a number of different organisations that play a role in regulating fracking. For more information from these see the links below.
Other useful sources