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An analysis of perspectives on groundwater governance arrangements relating to the potential development of unconventional oil and gas in South Africa

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/05/2024
<mark>Journal</mark>Hydrogeology Journal
Issue number3
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)705-722
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date27/11/23
<mark>Original language</mark>English


An analysis of expert perspectives on groundwater governance arrangements in South Africa is presented, particularly those arrangements that are pertinent to the complex and socially and ecologically significant implications of exploiting unconventional oil and gas (UOG). The paper presents a detailed assessment of literature on groundwater governance research, the findings of which are applied as a framework for a series of expert interviews, comprising hydrogeologists, lawyers, engineers, and governance specialists. This methodological approach was adopted as a means to enable an analysis of opinions on the current situation of groundwater governance in South Africa and how fit-for-purpose this is for managing the exploitation of UOG. The analysis was also informed by observation of participants at several relevant decision-making and stakeholder events. Whilst the findings indicated a generally positive evaluation of the initial steps taken to assess UOG impacts and engage relevant communities, recurrent criticisms also are featured across the interviews. Key implications arising from the research include: (1) the need for continued stakeholder engagement, and government follow-through on the outcomes of these processes, (2) the necessity for detailed groundwater-specific regulations to be drafted at the earliest opportunity, to ensure that the energy policy vacuum does not have a negative knock-on effect for effective groundwater management, and (3) the prevalence of significant governance gaps, particularly regarding regulatory and institutional capacity, and the need for continued development of a functional network of institutions to effectively manage UOG exploitation alongside groundwater resources.