Water for Fracking

Water for Fracking is a multi-part series exploring the rising use of water for hydraulic fracturing in Texas. It examines the concerns of rural counties at the center of the drilling boom, and looks at the measures oil and gas companies are taking to reduce water use, including recycling; using more brackish water; and even experimenting with water-free fracking. The series also examines the state's rapidly increasing reliance on disposal wells, where wastewater from fracking operations gets buried.

This series is a collaboration between The Texas Tribune and StateImpact Texas.

In Texas, Water Use for Fracking Stirs Concerns

A water truck parked near a West Texas drilling rig. Oil and gas companies' use of water for hydraulic fracturing has sparked growing concerns.
A water truck parked near a West Texas drilling rig. Oil and gas companies' use of water for hydraulic fracturing has sparked growing concerns.

The amount of water used in hydraulic fracturing has stirred concerns around Texas, especially as the drought wears on. Aware that they are under the spotlight, drillers are testing out recycling and other water-saving techniques.

In Texas, Recycling Oilfield Water Has Far to Go

Employees at Omni Water Solutions working on the "HIPPO," a mobile frackwater recycling unit.
Employees at Omni Water Solutions working on the "HIPPO," a mobile frackwater recycling unit.

In Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale, natural gas companies recycle water as a matter of course. But recycling is only getting started in the Texas oilfields because using freshwater for hydraulic fracturing is cheap.

Brackish Water for Fracking Rising Amid Challenges

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Brian Schoonover with Water Rescue Services holding a jar of produced water.
Brian Schoonover with Water Rescue Services holding a jar of produced water.

In drilling regions like the Permian Basin, where the water needs of fracking have run up against a historic drought, drillers are increasingly turning to brackish groundwater previously thought too expensive to use.

As Fracking Proliferates in Texas, So Do Disposal Wells

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Dirty truck tire tracks in front of the hookups at a Gulf Coast run fracking fluid disposal well site near Gonzales, TX, Friday, March 22, 2013.
Dirty truck tire tracks in front of the hookups at a Gulf Coast run fracking fluid disposal well site near Gonzales, TX, Friday, March 22, 2013.

As the water-intensive practice of fracking continues to spread, the amount of wastewater being buried in disposal wells around Texas has skyrocketed. But the wells bring concerns about truck traffic and the possibility of groundwater contamination.