A Canadian study of shale gas fracking and its impact on water quality was released earlier this month. Entitled Fracture Lines: Will Canada’s Water be Protected in the Rush to Develop Shale Gas?, the study was conducted by Ben Parfitt for the Program on Water Issues, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. Parfitt’s analysis is thoroughly sourced, with his fifty-page text being supplemented by another eight pages of detailed endnotes.

He begins by summarizing the shale gas boom in the USA and the growing concerns there over water issues, and warns that Canadian regulators need to be proactive:

“Unlike the United States where the US Congress and state regulators are fully engaged in public policy debates, neither the National Energy Board nor Environment Canada have yet raised any substantive questions about‘the shale gale’ or its impact on water resources” (p. 2).

He argues that when the low net energy/EROEI from shale gas is coupled with environmental concerns such as carbon emissions and water problems, shale gas looks less and less like the sure-fire“bridge to a cleaner energy future” claimed by its proponents.

Parfitt concludes by noting that “In Canada, government has notably embraced the benefits of shale production while studiously avoiding any serious discussion of its considerable environmental costs. The silence from the National Energy Board, Environment Canada and provincial energy regulators is troubling” (p. 42).

He offers thirteen recommendations for regulators, including the blunt observation that “Water is more vital than natural gas” (p. 47), a view which is no doubt shared (belatedly) by residents of Dimock, Pennsylvania.

Parfitt’s timely study is available here