Environmental issues associated with energy development, management and supply must be addressed for all energy systems. Regardless of the type, source or transport mode of energy, land and water will be affected. Hence, the land-water theme will be an integral component of all future, current and legacy energy systems, addressing land and water use, management, conservation and reclamation.
Research has addressed numerous land and water issues associated with energy systems, driving industrial reclamation practices and informing regulatory changes. Integrated research is needed on a wider array of land and water issues and problems that cross industries and energy systems, ranging from prevention to intensive reclamation of highly disturbed sites. Crucial knowledge gaps to be addressed are the lack of scientific basis for many current remediation and reclamation criteria; sustainability and resiliency of reclaimed landscapes; reclaimed community diversity and dynamics; treatment and release of process water to the environment; cost analysis of strategies and more green and low energy treatments, pilot scale tests and prediction of risks to discharging treated process water into natural ecosystems and using by products as soil building materials; methods of engagement and governance for sub-regional issues; refreshment of existing regional frameworks for land and water use and quality; engaging more organizational players across levels in new and extant frameworks; more well trained specialists in these fields who can engage with policy makers.
We can best fill the gaps by building on our existing knowledge base. We need to incorporate land and water reclamation knowledge into all phases of energy developments and resource extraction processes with a team of professionals; recognize the dynamic nature of reclaimed landscapes and develop appropriate performance metrics and targets spatially and temporally; understand fundamentals of active, semi-passive and engineered passive treatment processes; conduct life cycle assessments and cost analyses of treatments and approaches; assess performance of treatments at pilot scales; and develop a toolbox with the best available reclamation approaches for different scenarios.
After disturbance from energy focused activities, land and water require reclamation to resilient systems that support desired end land uses. Reclamation success can be achieved if metrics to determine trajectories and final outcomes are robust and science based, with good communication among stakeholders and practitioners. These projects address a systemic approach to energy production and delivery and cross theme benefits.