Curtailment First: Why Climate Change and the Energy Industry Suggest a New Allocation Paradigm Is Needed for Water Utilized in Hydraulic Fracturing

Victor Flatt *

Heather Payne **

Water, always necessary, is becoming less available. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“OECD”) predicts water use will increase by 55% between 2000 and 2050, and that by 2050, over 40% of the world’s population “will live in river basins under severe water stress.”[1] Climate change is making this worse. Approximately 486 million people will be exposed to water scarcity or aggravated scarcity even if the average global temperature rise is limited to 2°C.[2] If temperatures rise further, the numbers increase.[3] Looking at food production globally, a quarter of croplands lack adequate water, and 56% of irrigated land is under high to extremely high water stress.[4]

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*     Thomas F. and Elizabeth Taft Distinguished Professor in Environmental Law, and Director, Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation, and Resources (CLEAR) at the University of North Carolina School of Law.

**     Fellow, Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation, and Resources (CLEAR) at the University of North Carolina School of Law.

        [1].    OECD, Why Does Water Security Matter?, in Water Security for Better Lives 15 (2013), available at http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/environment/water-security_97892642 02405-en.

        [2].    Dieter Gerten et al., Asynchronous Exposure to Global Warming: Freshwater Resources and Terrestrial Ecosystems, 8 Envtl. Res. Letters 034032, at 4 (2013), available at http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/3/034032/pdf/1748-9326_8_3_034032.pdf. Another report has found that this level of temperature rise will increase the world’s population living under absolute water scarcity by an additional 40%. Jacob Schewe et al., Multimodel Assessment of Water Scarcity Under Climate Change, Proc. Nat’l Acad. Sci. 1 (early online ed. 2013), available at http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/12/12/1222460110. full.pdf.

        [3].    Gerten et al., supra note 2, at 4.

        [4].    Francis Gassert, One-Quarter of World’s Agriculture Grows in Highly Water-Stressed Areas, World Res. Inst. Blog (Oct. 31, 2013), http://www.wri.org/blog/one-quarter-world’s-agriculture-grows-highly-water-stressed-areas.