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Fracking Water Use Outpaces Industry Estimates

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in drought-stricken South Texas used more than 14 billion gallons of water last year, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

The number is far greater than estimates of what the Eagle Ford Shale oil field might use in the next decade. A study from the University of Texas at Austin, funded by the oil and gas industry, had predicted that fracking in the Eagle Ford would use a maximum of around 35,000 acre-feet of water annually.

To come up with its numbers, the San Antonio Express-News looked at more than 23,000 Texas wells drilled from 2011 to 2013, including more than 6,100 in the Eagle Ford.

About 21 percent of the 14 billion gallons likely came from nonfreshwater sources, the newspaper reports.

Limited available water resources, drought and increasing water-use demands from all segments of the economy is driving water management issues to the forefront of US oil and gas operations’ considerations and accounts for $8 billion in spending for water services in US fracking regions, according to a report from IHS.

An increasing number of oil and gas operations are reusing water. The practice is a boon to water companies that are helping drillers use less freshwater and dispose of less wastewater.

For instance, Fasken Oil and Ranch in West Texas now uses 90 percent recycled water for fracking, putting the company 10 percent away from its goal of not using any freshwater for fracking.

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