The Texas Energy Industry Takes Leading Roll in Water Conservation
As Texas grapples with the implications of one of the worst droughts in recent memory, a surprising leader has emerged in the area of the water conversation: the oil and gas industry.
It turns out the same companies that have been fueling our state’s economic boom are driving innovation in technologies that drastically reduce fresh water usage. I look forward to the long-term impact of those same technologies on our state’s water challenges across the board.
Thanks to a federal government set on undermining our State’s energy industry and a concerted effort by environmental activists, many people are being led to believe that oil and gas producers consume a disproportionate share of water, specifically in the hydraulic fracturing process. In the course of the typical fracturing project, which involves injecting water mixed with chemicals and sand into rock formations to release trapped minerals like oil and natural gas, a company will use between two and five million gallons of water. When viewed in comparison to other human activities, in light of the benefit to our economy, and with an eye to the increasing amount of recycled water, that’s a drop in the bucket.
According to recent data from the Texas Water Development Board, the oil and gas industry uses less water than any other category in their Water Use Survey. A 2013 report found that irrigation is the biggest user of water, accounting for 61 percent. Municipal use, manufacturing, steam electric power, and livestock make up the next 38 percent. The last 1 percent of water use is made up of oil and gas and other mining activities.
When it comes to our economy, Texas energy producers create some of the highest-paying jobs in Texas and carry a large portion of our state’s tax burden. In fiscal year 2013, Texas producers paid $4.5 billion in severance taxes on the production of oil and gas, which expanded the state’s rainy day fund. The industry also pays far more in state and local taxes and royalties on a per-worker basis than the average private-sector company, so the 2.1 million direct and indirect jobs it has created in Texas have a bigger than average impact on funding for Texas public schools, roads and first responders.
Oil and gas producers are also driving desalination technology that promises to bring down the cost of converting salt water to fresh water for broader applications worldwide. Texas producers are adopting heat distilling or filtration processes that allow the reuse of up to 80 percent of the returned fracture fluids typically unusable due to its high salt content. Other companies are reporting the successful development of a fully closed loop production system, using 100 percent recycled water.
Water recycling has gradually become a way of life for most Texans since education and conservation efforts began at the turn of the century. While the Texas Legislature and other state officials work to execute the statewide and regional water plan to assist those efforts, the energy industry is working diligently to reduce water demand. To their credit, the oil and gas industry in Texas has managed to improve and incorporate water recycling technology in its production processes in just the past two to three years.
Once again, Texas has assumed a leadership role on a pivotal issue — that water conservation and energy production can and must co-exist. With continued careful stewardship by energy companies and sensible oversight by state government, Texans can expect to enjoy the benefits of both our water and underground mineral deposits, for years to come.
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