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Engaging over Data on Fracking and Water Quality

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Engaging over Data on Fracking and Water Quality

Data alone aren’t the solution, but they bring people together


5 min read
4 take-aways
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What's inside?

Collaboratively compiling pollution data builds trust and cooperation among diverse participants.

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Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Scientific
  • Applicable


Hydraulic fracturing produces not only gas and oil, but also concerns about surface and groundwater contamination. To address such concerns, Penn State geoscientist Susan Brantley and colleagues brought citizens and scientists together to develop a water quality database. The process of creating the database built valuable connections and a sense of community among the public and private parties involved. This article will inspire planners, policy makers, industry representatives and others who seek to build trust and collaboration in controversial circumstances.


The privacy of drilling agreements has left citizens in the dark about possible harm to waterways.

Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) is based on complex science and involves diverse stakeholders. Industry privacy limits public involvement in policy decisions. Limited accessibility to water quality data before and after drilling and the difficulty of sharing data restrict the public’s ability to assess pollution risk.

Cooperatively creating a database proved invaluable in building trust and communication.

Researchers compiled data on both...

About the Authors

Susan L. Brantley is a distinguished professor with the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Pennsylvania State University.

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