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Water Use Rising for Fracking in Texas and Nation

Water use for hydraulic fracturing is increasing. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey.
Water use for hydraulic fracturing is increasing. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey.
July 8, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas - Water used for hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is on the rise across the nation, according to a new study from the U.S. Geological Survey.

The study found water use in horizontal drilling at gas wells was 28 times higher in 2014 than in 2000. Each gas well now taps over five million gallons of water, and oil wells require some four million gallons. Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, says this is bad news for states prone to drought.

"Many communities in Texas are finding their wells are going dry," says Kretzmann. "It makes no sense that, in the midst of this water crisis, oil and gas companies are swooping in and taking as much water as they can get their hands on."

In some areas, well operators are working to capture and clean post-fracking water for reuse. Industry groups in Texas say groundwater protection continues to be a main goal in fracking operations, and claim the technology has been used safely in more than one million wells.

The report found since fracking operations are not the same in every location, water usage varies. It showed more water was in play in areas with large shale formations, such as the Eagle Ford Basin in south Texas. Kretzmann points out much of the water deployed in the hydraulic fracturing process is clean enough to be used for drinking, livestock or irrigation.

"But instead, that water is being combined with very toxic fracking chemicals," says Kretzmann. "They're doing damage to the aquifers beneath the surface and they're taking this water out of the system."

The report's authors say they're hopeful the new information about how much water is being used at different sites across the U.S. will give land and resource managers more information to protect against potential environmental impacts.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - TX