Water Availability for Shale Gas Development in Sichuan Basin, China

Mengjun Yu, Erika Weinthal, Dalia Patiño-Echeverri, Marc A. Deshusses, Caineng Zou, Yunyan Ni, Avner Vengosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Unconventional shale gas development holds promise for reducing the predominant consumption of coal and increasing the utilization of natural gas in China. While China possesses some of the most abundant technically recoverable shale gas resources in the world, water availability could still be a limiting factor for hydraulic fracturing operations, in addition to geological, infrastructural, and technological barriers. Here, we project the baseline water availability for the next 15 years in Sichuan Basin, one of the most promising shale gas basins in China. Our projection shows that continued water demand for the domestic sector in Sichuan Basin could result in high to extremely high water stress in certain areas. By simulating shale gas development and using information from current water use for hydraulic fracturing in Sichuan Basin (20 000-30 000 m3 per well), we project that during the next decade water use for shale gas development could reach 20-30 million m3/year, when shale gas well development is projected to be most active. While this volume is negligible relative to the projected overall domestic water use of ∼36 billion m3/year, we posit that intensification of hydraulic fracturing and water use might compete with other water utilization in local water-stress areas in Sichuan Basin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2837-2845
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 15 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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