Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has delivered an oil and gas boom to parts of the United States with large shale plays. It’s now axiomatic that wherever fracking goes, an increase in water use and wastewater follow.
The arid lands of New Mexico’s Permian Basin, for instance, has witnessed the exponential increase in water use and production of wastewater along with hydrocarbon production. In a recent report, scientists from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment found that that the water footprint of fracking in the United States has jumped over the past several years, with the Permian Basin one of the most dire regions in terms of water use in the face of water scarcity.
According to Ryan Flynn, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association executive director, “water reuse is the industry’s ‘No. 1’ priority, as fresh water becomes scarce, and the industry looks to cut back on its environmental impact. ” Flynn goes on to say:
“Just the sheer volume of production is making the reuse and recycling of water even more economical,” Flynn said. “It’s driving the cost down. And the cost of freshwater is going up.”
As the economic incentive to produce oil and gas in the Permian Basin grows, so too will the incentive to reuse wastewater for fracking in the water-stressed region. This is imperative to avoid water shortages and potential water pollution of both surface water and groundwater resources.