How much fracking impacts the availability of water depends on geography — "and on how you define impact," Malewitz writes. "So far, there has been little comprehensive research" on the topic. "Depending on the depth of the drilling, it can take anywhere from 2 to 12 million gallons of water to frack one well. Those numbers may appear staggering to laymen," but drilling companies prefer to compare them to those of the heaviest users. Chesapeake Energy, the nation’s second largest producer of natural gas, has circulated a fact sheet that states that the company’s water use amounts to just a fraction of agriculture's 82 percent of water use or 8 percent for public water supplies.
"Environmental groups frame the issue differently," Malewitz notes. Western Resource Advocates estimated this year that drilling companies "were consuming enough water to meet the needs of between 66,400 and 118,400 households. The industry is researching ways to reduce water use and improve treatment and recycling, but with current technology, returning water to its natural cycle remains a daunting, costly task." See a related story from CNN/Money here.