Water and Sanitation on Unconventional Gas Regulations

Unconventional gas activities or “Fracking” consultations were held in the Karoo area of the Northern Cape

The Department of Water and Sanitation interacted with the community members which included the farmers of the Karoo area in the Northern Cape. The community engagement was held in Richmond to inform the community about the Unconventional Gas Regulations. Richmond is in the Karoo area which is water scarce.

The Department of Water and Sanitation was tasked with the responsibility of formulating regulations that will oversee the hydraulic fracturing commonly known as “fracking “, which is an activity of drilling underground to extract gas by the gas industries. These activities were announced in Parliament but were found to have adverse impact on the environment due to the chemicals used during fracking.

As the Department’s sole mandate is to protect, manage, control, and develop water resources, regulations guiding the activities of fracking were developed. The regulations will regulate these activities because they have a possibility of contaminating the water resources, particularly groundwater. The Department formulated these regulations as mandated by the National Water Act.

Richmond is a semi-rural area with farming as its main economic activity. There are several boreholes that were dug by the Municipality as well as by the farmers.

The officials from the Department tabled the regulations that guides Unconventional Gas activities, and the community members made their valuable inputs regarding the matter.

Community members expressed a concern that there will not be a space for the drilling of the unconventional gas because of multiple boreholes that have been drilled.

Mr Jozua Theron, a local farmer with a community of about 50 families in Richmond also expressed a concern around the high usage of water during the activities. “Fracking needs a lot of water. It may use approximately 24 Olympic swimming pools to execute the gas drilling activities, and this on itself will exacerbate the water supply challenges that we already have in this area. Not only will fracking bring environmental and socio-economic problems, but it will also add to the water supply challenges to the community of Richmond”, he said.

The Department of Water and Sanitation has noted the concerns raised by the community regarding unconventional gas drilling which is a very water intensive process. It has also noted the possibility of the fracking activities contaminating water resources in Richmond, particularly groundwater resources.

Source: Government of South Africa