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Dawson Creek in Canada

Water – an important resource

Few natural resources are as essential for human development as fresh water – we drink it, wash in it, grow food with it, use it in manufacturing – and its importance will only rise as the world’s population increases and developing economies continue to grow.

The world is not running out of water but it is not always available where people need it or in a form that is easy to use.  Today, it is estimated that over 2.7 billion people live in water basins that experience severe water scarcity (where water consumption greatly exceeds natural availability) during at least one month of the year.

Energy and water

While the oil and gas industry is a relatively small consumer of fresh water, we need a reliable supply of water for many of our activities – from drilling and flooding wells, to refining crude and producing biofuels. 

Unlike many other industries, water is also often a by-product of our operations. Water is typically raised to the surface during oil and gas production and is also a by-product of some of the manufacturing processes we use. That water needs either to be recycled reused or safely disposed of.

Our approach

At Shell, we are taking steps to manage our use of fresh water in a responsible and sustainable way.

Our projects comply with water regulations in the countries where we operate and must meet our mandatory water standards, which are in line with industry best practice.

Although the availability of fresh water is a global issue, water constraints tend to affect people and the environment at the local or regional level. Therefore the way we manage our use of fresh water depends on the local situation, and requires tailored local or regional solutions.

In areas where water is scarce, our operations and projects develop water-management plans to assess water availability and to monitor and reduce our water use.

We have developed tools to better understand our water footprint, an important step towards prioritising our improvement efforts. We also use detailed scenarios models to anticipate the demands that society will place on global water resources in the decades ahead.

We develop collaborative solutions to save, reuse and recycle water – often applying innovative technologies to do so. We have established a global centre of expertise for water at our Technology Centre in India. It has the technological skills and knowledge to help reduce fresh water use and effectively treat waste water.

Discover examples of our approach in practice around the world

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