The water industry has admitted there may not be enough water to supply the public and meet the demands of drilling for shale gas.
A report by Water UK, which represents the water industry, warns that in dry spells there may not be enough resource to supply both the public and fracking operations.
The research was released as it was announced the organisation had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UK Onshore Operators Group, which ensures the groups' respective members will cooperate throughout the shale gas exploration and extraction process.
A key aim of the agreement is to give the public greater confidence and reassurance that everything will be done to minimise the effects on water resources and the environment.
Water UK has reviewed recent reports into shale gas extraction, and believes that while there are potential risks to water and wastewater services, these can be mitigated given proper enforcement of the regulatory framework.
In a briefing paper, Water UK highlights the inherent risks associated with fracking which still need to be fully understood, regulated and mitigated.
It described: “The pressure on local water resources will depend in part on the pace and extent of shale gas extraction, although the potential to reclaim and reuse large proportions of water from each site promises to significantly mitigate the risks to local water resources.
“However, where water is in short supply there may not be enough available from public water supplies or the environment to meet the requirements for hydraulic fracturing.
“Shale gas companies should therefore engage with water companies as early as possible to ensure their needs can be met without reducing the security of supply to existing customers.”
Water UK has urged the Government and devolved administrations to consider introducing legislation to ensure that water undertakers in the UK are statutory consultees in the planning process for onshore oil and gas exploration and development.
This would ensure that water companies receive vital information about proposed extraction sites and would give time to engage with regulators and gas licence holders to ensure that development plans are fully understood, the associated risks are addressed and that the protection of water resources and the environment are considered as a priority.
But Friends of the Earth Energy Campaigner Tony Bosworth said: “This new industry report raises concerns about the impact fracking could pose to water-stressed southern England.
“Draft guidance produced by the Environment Agency, the main regulator, is full of holes and doesn’t adequately address the risks to water supply and quality.
“The desperate search for shale gas and oil mustn’t be allowed to cause water shortages for critical public purposes and increases in hosepipe bans.
"Fracking is not the solution to our energy problems - it won’t lead to cheaper energy bills. The Government should pull the plug on its dash for dirty shale gas and develop Britain’s plentiful renewable power potential."