Creating solutions in collaboration Annual report 2013

Shale gas knowledge agenda for drinking water companies  

‘Reliability and confidence’

20 October 2013BTO

In the Exploratory Research component of the water sector’s joint research programme (BTO), KWR is developing  a multidisciplinary research project on “Drinking Water and Shale Gas”. The first step is to establish a knowledge agenda with the drinking water companies.

To provide the water companies and their branch organisation, Vewin, with the best possible support, KWR is making an inventory of the issues raised for water companies by shale gas extraction, and incorporating them into a knowledge agenda for more detailed research. “The knowledge agenda must help water companies and Vewin in their decision-making and their participation in the political, policy and public discussions,” says Mariëlle van der Zouwen, Manager of KWR’s Knowledge Management Knowledge Group. “It should also prepare them better for possible initial test-drilling for shale gas. If it goes ahead, it is important that the drinking water sector be in a position to present a programme of requirements for the drilling, so as to optimally protect the groundwater.”

Reliability

The BTO follow-up research into shale gas has a technical and a social-scientific component. “For the technical component,” explains Van der Zouwen, “we are researching how the reliability of the drinking water sources can continue to be guaranteed. We are focusing our attention on the possible threats that the shale gas extraction process represent for drinking water. For instance, through the leakage of chemicals, but also because of the potential thermal effects of the drilling on the drinking water.”

“Today, the level of confidence in water is rightfully high, and naturally that’s the way the drinking water sector wants to keep it”

Confidence

The social-scientific research concentrates on the public confidence in the drinking water and drinking water companies: How does the public assess the safety risks? In this component the central issue is the degree to which drinking water and drinking water companies have, and can maintain, the public’s confidence. “Today, the level of confidence is rightfully high, and naturally that’s the way the drinking water sector wants to keep it,” says Van der Zouwen. “But examples from politics and the food industry teach us that consumer confidence cannot be taken for granted: it can also suddenly drop. That is why the way one operates and communicates is important. We also look for lessons to be learned from the experience of other countries.”

Shale gas drilling in USA

© 2017 KWR Watercycle Research Institute

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