Unconventional oil and gas exploration is often carried out in remote areas, where the well field will be the most significant and visible user and potential contaminator of water resources. However, wherever it is located, the use of water must be managed in the context of two key aspects: 1) the natural parameters of the resource; its abundance, its temporal variability, and its chemical and physical qualities; and 2) other users of the resource; other industry, potable water supplies, and ecological requirements of local habitats. It is vital, therefore, that this commodity be assessed to an appropriate degree to help establish the viability and sustainability of the project and identify stakeholders who may be affected by the exploration activities.

This paper outlines a cost effective method for establishing a robust water baseline and creating a water management and evaluation tool for the whole project life cycle. Numerical surface and groundwater modelling has long been established as a tool for reactive management, following collation of years' worth of data. Now, using freely available remote sensing data and desk study information, analytical and numerical modelling techniques can be used cost effectively to provide oil & gas companies with a tool for assessing and managing their water consumption requirements at the outset of a new project venture.

The paper includes extracts from case studies to show how the use of analytical modelling can be used as an evaluation and management tool to help not only assess general watershed parameters and water availability but also how it can be used as a tool to provide decision makers with the information to complete ‘what if?’ scenario assessments.

Water evaluation and management during oil and gas exploration and production activities is crucial to minimise direct and indirect operational costs and in delivering companies the less tangible, but equally critical ‘social license to operate’.

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