NEWS – Aug 2014 – Shale-gas and Groundwater Concerns, Pretoria, South Africa



Andrew Stone, American Ground Water Trust Executive Director, was an invited presenter at this information-exchange program in Pretoria. The Symposium,  organized by the Ground Water Division of the Geological Society of South Africa and the Mine Water Division of the Water Institute of Southern Africa was titled UNCONVENTIONAL GAS: JUST THE FACTS. The two-day symposium included invited presentations from industrial, regulatory, research, and civil society organizations.  Stone’s presentation outlined the environmental issues that are in the forefront of public concern over shale-gas and shale oil development in the United States. The principal points of his presentaion  are listed below.

  • The South African hydrologic / geologic community must remain vigilant and engaged over the potential economic and environmental implications of the development of gas from shale.
  • If the government imposes a total ban on shale-gas development then groundwater will not be impacted…….
  • However, the global reality is that economic forces in the energy markets will likely mean that politically, South Africa will not reject the technology……..
  • So, given the likely inevitability (at some time) of shale gas development, then hydrogeologists must work to identify “no-go” areas where there may be greater risks, and to ensure that target sites are closely monitored.
  • Meanwhile, ongoing technology developments in “fracking” and water treatment in other countries may lead to a lessening of some of South Africa’s principal concerns about excessive water use and contamination threats in the semi-arid areas of the Karoo where there may be shale-gas potential.
  • If planned test drilling shows that gas production in South Africa is not economically viable and/or that the geologic conditions do not provide adequate water resources protection, then shale-gas will probably not be used as an energy source and there will be renewed attention given to renewable energy sources of solar & wind and to improved technologies for generating electricity from South Africa’s abundant coal resources.


Picture: Hanover, South Africa.  Typical small Karoo town where groundwater is essential for water supply