We need to be extremely cautious about fracking

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Hydraulic fracturing (or fracking as it is better known) is going to be a controversial issue in Hampshire for some time to come.

Some eight sites in the county have been identified for investigation, including two in the Meon Valley constituency.

It’s unlikely that all these sites will be developed for fracking and it’s also possible that many (and maybe even all) will be used for conventional gas extraction.

Now I should be clear that I’m not against the use of hydraulic fracturing as a part of our future energy generation mix per se, despite some recent newspaper headlines to the contrary.

It has always been my view that a combination of renewable and non-renewable sources will be needed to meet our energy demands in the years ahead.

But I do have real concerns over the potential impact of fracking on our water supplies.

Hampshire is blessed in having a number of ancient chalk aquifers which have provided our communities with a source of clean water for many thousands of years.

Nowadays many hundreds of thousands of people rely on that water every single day.

It can hardly be controversial to want to take every step to ensure absolutely no risk is taken with these supplies.

For now though, is fracking likely to be a problem? The truth is I’m not sure.

Whatever one concludes about the threat to the local geology caused by the central technique of fracturing shale (and my initial research suggests there is scant evidence of such a threat), the infrastructure around the technique dictates that we need to be extremely cautious about how we go about this.

The simple fact is that this technology involves the use of large amounts of water mixed with chemicals pumped down at high pressures through aquifers and then retrieved for disposal. It is this that makes me very cautious in an area of such high water sensitivity.