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New report from Barclays highlights investment opportunities in water saving technologies amid rocketing use from fracking
US oil and gas companies and power and water utilities should collaborate on innovation to reduce their use of fresh water, a resource that is increasingly under threat from climate change and over-extraction, according to a report from Barclays and Colombia University.
The report, The water challenge: preserving a global resource, which was released to mark World Water Day, points out that only 2.5% of the world’s water is fresh, yet the US depends on it for nearly 90% of withdrawals for public and industrial use. With the rise of fracking, freshwater usage by US energy companies has increased from 5,600 barrels per oil well in 2008 to more than 128,000 barrels in 2014 and over 300,000 barrels in some areas today.
Meanwhile, underinvestment in water efficiency by public utilities has created infrastructure, environmental, and public health challenges, which disproportionately affect the poor. “This has been exemplified by the lead contamination of drinking water in Flint, Michigan, where a combination of underinvestment, inadequate water treatment and poor regulation proved catastrophic for the community in 2014,” the report points out.
“We believe the industry could consume less freshwater and do more to access alternative sources through recycling and reusing more of the waste water it produces as a by-product of its operations.
Despite differences between the oil and gas sector, electricity providers, and water utilities, the report says there are opportunities for them to collaborate through shared learning and innovation. “For example, larger, well-capitalised companies in the oil and gas industry, as well as some utilities, can help finance upgrades for capital-constrained small public wastewater utilities in exchange for use of wastewater.”
Jes Staley, chief executive officer of Barclays, said global water stresses can be viewed as a sustainable investment opportunity. “Oil and gas companies, as well as power and water utilities, are ideally placed not only to be more efficient users of water but also to be pioneers in finding alternative water sources and introducing innovative technologies to counter wastage.”
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Main image credit: Eddie J. Rodriquez
Main image credit: Eddie J. RodriquezBarclays Fracking water World Water Day climate energy Colombia University efficiency