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Regulations to protect groundwater resources during unconventional oil and gas extraction using fracking

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Abstract Unconventional oil and gas (UOG) extraction using fracking can damage groundwater resources, a crucial resource in many countries. Protecting groundwater will become more urgent as climate change and population growth increase pressure on water demand, especially in water‐scarce countries. But despite the strategic importance of groundwater, it is often poorly managed during UOG extraction. This review considers three types of regulation (command‐and‐control, market‐based and voluntary) in countries where UOG extraction is allowed, to identify the best suite of regulations to protect groundwater resources during this process. We propose a regulatory framework that includes both “hard” command‐and‐control regulations and “soft” market‐based and voluntary regulations. If regulations are to protect groundwater resources effectively, public disclosure of UOG operations must be required and the information must be stored in publicly accessible databases. This would allow for independent scientific review of data by academia and the private sector, in addition to government scrutiny of the data. These parties can then make recommendations to government, allowing timeous and appropriate adaptive management and the amendment of regulations as necessary. And, most importantly, these regulations must be properly enforced to avoid (in some cases irreversible) damage to groundwater resources. This article is characterized under: Engineering Water > Sustainable Engineering of Water Human Water > Water Governance Science of Water > Water Quality
Unconventional oil and gas (UOG) extraction regulatory trends. The figure shows the economic importance of gas to the total primary energy supply (TPES) per country, compared with the importance of groundwater resources for the country. It also shows the extent of UOG regulations to protect groundwater resources, and the fracking status of each country. For more information on this dataset, see Appendix S1
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A recommended regulatory framework to protect groundwater resources during unconventional oil and gas extraction
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Engineering Water > Sustainable Engineering of Water
Human Water > Water Governance
Science of Water > Water Quality

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