Fracking Puts Water Sources At Risk In Texas And Colorado

Via From the Styx, a report on how water use in fracking is a key risk in water-stressed regions in Texas and Colorado:

Map: Competition for Water in U.S. Shale Energy Development

Click to view full sized interactive map, including well locations and related water risk trends [Source: Ceres analysis using WRI Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas in combination with well data from IHS via Data from January 2011-January 2016.]

“Even with the slowdown in oil and gas production, hydraulic fracturing is potentially heightening the competition for water resources in many of the country’s most water-stressed regions,” said Monika Freyman, director, Investor Initiative, Water Program at the nonprofit sustainability group Ceres, who led the water use research effort. “Oil and gas companies face increasing water risks in key basins, and investors and banks financing this activity should be pressing harder on their strategies for managing these water risks.”

Chesapeake, EOG Resources and Anadarko Petroleum were the biggest water users overall, while Pioneer Natural Resources and Encana were especially active in regions with extremely high water stress.

The top three plays by water use were the Eagle Ford, Marcellus and Midland Plays, with the Eagle Ford and Midland Plays being of particular concern given both their high water use and exposure to high water stress, drought and declining groundwater supplies. Weld County, Colorado saw the highest number of wells drilled (almost 7,000 wells) and water used for fracking (more than 16 billion gallons) of any county in the United States.

In the Piceance Basin, out of five counties Garfield County consumes the most water for fracking and is among the top ten counties in the U.S. for water use and stress.

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Water used for oil & gas drilling is consumptive water use. “Consumptive water use is water removed from available supplies without return to a water resource system (e.g., water used in manufacturing, agriculture, and food preparation that is not returned to a stream, river, or water treatment plant).”

The analysis, which aggregates data by shale play and by operator, is based on water use data from 109,665 oil and gas wells reported to from January 2011 through January 2016 and water stress indicator maps developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI). (Extreme high water stress regions, as defined by WRI, are areas where 80 percent of available surface and groundwater are already allocated to municipal, industrial and agricultural users.)

“Hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas extraction, which used to be “unconventional”, is now a part of most conventional energy company portfolios in the U.S. and Canada. This has made water management a critical liability or competitive advantage for companies and their investors,” said Steven Heim, managing director for Boston Common Asset Management. “Ceres’s update provides investors useful data to reassess companies on their water risk exposure.”

The large volumes of wastewater produced by hydraulic fracturing that must be managed at the surface and ultimately disposed of in underground deep well injection sites are a significant and growing issue at the local level. These wastewater injections have been linked to surface and groundwater contamination events, as well as to earthquakes with Oklahoma limiting access to some disposal wells.

Other Key Findings:

  • Fracking-related water use from January 2011 to January 2016 was 358 billion gallons, equivalent to the water needs of 200 mid-sized U.S. cities.
  • The data show that while overall fracking-related water use peaked in 2014, average water use per well has doubled since 2013, from 2.6 million gallons per well to 5.3 million gallons per well at the end of January 2016. This is likely due to longer lateral pipelines and drill site activity.
  • Local communities at the epicenter of fracking are hardest hit by water demands for fracking activities. In seven of the top 10 counties, annual water use for hydraulic fracturing reached over 100% of each county’s domestic water use.

This is an update to Ceres’ 2014 report Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Stress: Water Demand by the Numbers.

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 13th, 2016 at 9:21 pm and is filed under Uncategorized.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. 

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About This Blog And Its Author
As the scarcity of water and energy continues to grow, the linkage between these two critical resources will become more defined and even more acute in the months ahead.  This blog is committed to analyzing and referencing articles, reports, and interviews that can help unlock the nascent, complex and expanding linkages between water and energy -- The Watergy Nexus -- and will endeavor to provide a central clearinghouse for insightful articles and comments for all to consider.

Educated at Yale University (Bachelor of Arts - History) and Harvard (Master in Public Policy - International Development), Monty Simus has held a lifelong interest in environmental and conservation issues, primarily as they relate to freshwater scarcity, renewable energy, and national park policy.  Working from a water-scarce base in Las Vegas with his wife and son, he is the founder of Water Politics, an organization dedicated to the identification and analysis of geopolitical water issues arising from the world’s growing and vast water deficits, and is also a co-founder of SmartMarkets, an eco-preneurial venture that applies web 2.0 technology and online social networking innovations to motivate energy & water conservation.  He previously worked for an independent power producer in Central Asia; co-authored an article appearing in the Summer 2010 issue of the Tulane Environmental Law Journal, titled: “The Water Ethic: The Inexorable Birth Of A Certain Alienable Right”; and authored an article appearing in the inaugural issue of Johns Hopkins University's Global Water Magazine in July 2010 titled: “H2Own: The Water Ethic and an Equitable Market for the Exchange of Individual Water Efficiency Credits.”