The development of the US unconventional oil and gas (UOG) industry has had transformative impacts on the energy outlook both nationally and internationally. At the same time, the growing threat of climate change and its relationship to fossil fuel use is receiving increased amounts of attention, casting doubt on the sustainability of current levels of natural gas extraction and use. Another issue related to the environmental sustainability of the UOG industry is the impact on water resources, particularly in semi-arid regions of the US where several major UOG basins are located.
Compounding the perceived unsustainability of the UOG industry with respect to water is the severe drought that is impacting much of the US. As of August 17, 2021, greater than 47% of the area of the lower 48 states in the US was affected by some level of drought (NOAA, 2021). Drought conditions were impacting almost 75 million people, including populations that are in many of the of the most productive UOG basins (NOAA, 2021).
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