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In fast-urbanizing China, nearly 90 percent of coastal cities face some degree of water scarcity and roughly 300 million rural residents lack access to clean water.

To quench the country’s chronic thirst, the Chinese government has turned to desalination, aiming to produce as much as 3 million cubic meters of desalinated water daily by 2020, up from today’s 0.77 million cubic meter.

The shale gas revolution, which began nearly 10 years ago in the United States, is poised to spread across the globe. For many countries, shale gas could strengthen energy security while cutting emissions.

But unlocking this massive resource comes with a significant environmental risk: access to freshwater for drinking, agriculture, and industrial use.

Dozens of countries are deciding whether or not to develop their shale gas and tight oil resources in order to reduce emissions, create new jobs, and increase national energy supplies. However, extracting natural gas and tight oil from shale poses water risk.

We analyzed water stress levels in the 20 countries with the largest shale gas and tight oil resources, and found that 40 percent face high water stress.


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