Unconventional Oil and Gas: Interactions with and Implications for Groundwater

  • Brett A. Miller
Part of the Water Security in a New World book series (WSEC)


The actual and potential impacts of the “shale revolution” on groundwater supplies are subject to intense scholarly debate in scientific, legal, and policy domains. Unconventional development of shale gas through the dynamic combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling will continue as a fundamental component of energy policy in the United States, particularly with regards to notions of energy independence and security. At a regional level, the water-related risks associated with hydraulic fracturing operations include impacts on water quality and quantity. This chapter examines the potential implications of hydraulic fracturing operations for groundwater drinking supplies through direct, indirect, and natural contamination pathways, including subsurface migration of methane, accidental surface spills, leak-off implicating fracturing fluids, well-casing integrity, and water table interactions with produced water. These effects are controversial because the best available scientific research is often contradictory, offering both support and opposition to establishing a causal relationship between contamination pathways and hydraulic fracturing. Regulatory uncertainty and challenges in establishing legal causation further contribute to the difficulties associated with detecting, monitoring, and assigning liability for groundwater contamination. This chapter examines the science behind the conduits that could impact drinking water supplies and analyzes regulatory regimes that monitor groundwater interactions with unconventional oil and gas development.


Groundwater Contamination pathways Subsurface Threats Drinking water Causation 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brett A. Miller
    • 1
  1. 1.Water Asset Management, LLCNew YorkUSA

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