Water companies in the United Kingdom will have to be consulted on planning applications relating to shale oil and gas exploration and development.

In response to a recent consultation, the U.K. government confirmed that water companies would be made statutory consultees in respect of proposals involving hydraulic fracturing because of the significant volume of water used in the process.

An overwhelming 98% of respondents to the consultation were in favor of the proposal. The government said that three key reasons emerged for making water companies statutory consultees:

1. It would ensure that water companies are involved at an early stage of the planning process, allowing them to work with shale gas operators to identify any risks and develop solutions to any water-related issues;

2. Statutory inclusion in the planning process would demonstrate to regulators and the public that any impacts of shale gas development on drinking water and drinking water sources will be fully taken into account as part of the decision-making process; and

3. While there is already a Memorandum of Understanding between Water UK and the UK Onshore Operators Group, this has no formal legal status. A statutory mechanism would ensure a greater level of public confidence.

The requirement to consult the relevant water and sewerage company before planning consent is issued would be included in the Infrastructure Bill, the government said.