Use our interactive map to see more than 7,000 wells across Texas where wastewater from oil and gas operations is being disposed of. Such wastewater disposal has surged with the spread of hydraulic fracturing statewide, because it's generally cheaper to bury the water in disposal wells than to recycle it. Enter your ZIP code to find disposal wells near you.
by Kate Galbraith, The Texas Tribune and Terrence Henry, KUT News/StateImpact Texas
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, which are often controversial in local communities, have stirred concerns about truck traffic, spills and the possibility of groundwater contamination.
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.
Most fracking operations use several million gallons of water. But with water increasingly scarce and costly around Texas, a few companies have begun using alternative liquids, such as propane. Experts say the technology still has far to go.
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. Policy changes are poised to come from the Railroad Commission and the Legislature to encourage recycling.
Can groundwater authorities in Texas require oil and gas drillers to get permits for the huge quantities of water they use in hydraulic fracturing? No one knows for sure, thanks to ambiguities in the water code, which was written well before the spread of fracking. Some lawmakers have filed bills to clear up the problem.
The amount of water used in hydraulic fracturing has stirred concerns around Texas, especially as the drought wears on. Think of it this way: Texas uses more water for fracking than it produces barrels of oil. Aware of the spotlight, drillers are testing out recycling and other water-saving techniques.