Study: Water use in ND Oil Patch increased almost 20-fold in seven years by Forum staff, Nov 15, 2017, The Dickinson Press
FARGO—Water use for oil production in the Bakken oilfields increased almost 20-fold from 2008 to 2014, with water consumption climbing from 550 million gallons to 10,200 million gallons per year, according to North Dakota State University researchers.
Total annual industrial water use for Bakken oil production during the seven-year period ranged from 0.5 percent to 10 percent of the state’s total water consumption, the researchers found.
The rate of increase was most pronounced in the heart of the Bakken formation in western North Dakota, including the counties of Dunn, McKenzie, Mountrail and Williams, where water consumption rose within a range of 3 percent to 40 percent.
Freshwater sources for Bakken development were split equally between groundwater and surface water, on average. From 2012 to 2014, however, more surface water than groundwater was used.
“The analysis of the current water management strategies and policies adopted in western North Dakota will assist and inform other policymakers and water practitioners to develop adaptive management strategies and policies to address increased industrial and community water demands associated with unconventional oil and gas development in their regions,” said Zhulu Lin, an assistant professor in NDSU’s Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department and the lead investigator on the research project.
Of the nine streams and 15 shallow aquifers under study, three shallow aquifers—Charbonneau, Tobacco Garden Creek and Killdeer—In McKenzie and Dunn Counties appear to have been affected by Bakken shale oil development. In those cases, average groundwater levels decreased.
The remaining 12 shallow aquifers and all nine small- to medium-sized streams had higher groundwater levels or increased average annual seven-day low flows, largely because the region received unusually high precipitation during the 2008-14 study period, and through adaptive management, the researchers found.
For example, irrigation permit holders were allowed to transfer the water temporarily from irrigation, mainly from groundwater, to industrial water uses, such as hydraulic fracturing for the oil industry, and by issuing temporary water permits, mainly for surface water.
“Due to restrictive regulations, not much water from the deep regional aquifers such as the Fox Hills-Hell Creek Aquifer was used for hydraulic fracturing in the Bakken,” Lin said. “This has prevented the deep regional aquifers from being affected by the Bakken shale oil development.”
The research, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, will be outlined in an article appearing in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association in February. The research team also included Siew Lim, an associate professor in NDSU’s Agribusiness and Applied Economics Department; Tong Lin, a research assistant in NDSU’s Environmental and Conservation Sciences Program; as well as Michael Hove and William Schuh of the North Dakota State Water Commission. [Emphasis added]
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Water in North Dakota is going to dry up. That’s the message the Western Organization of Resource Councils sent Thursday when releasing its report, Gone for Good: Fracking and Water Loss in the West. Resource council members from North Dakota, Montana, Colorado and Wyoming held a conference call to go over the study, which highlighted the amount of water used for hydraulic fracturing in a part of the country where the group said water was already low in supply.
“This water, once it’s used, is gone for good,” said Pat Wilson of the Northern Plains Resource Council in Montanta. “It is subtracted from the hydrologic cycle, never to be returned.” Theodora Bird Bear of the Dakota Resource Council said the Missouri River is the primary source of drinking water on the Fort Berthold Reservation and no state, federal or tribal industry has been measuring how much water has been used. She said a combination of shorter winters, dryer summers and less snow melting into the Missouri River has caused less water and may play a factor in climate change and global warming. “Ground water is a limited source in our arid, dry land in North Dakota counties,” Bird Bear said.
While the members discussed the limitations of water in their states,solutions to the fracking-water problem were few.
They said with tens of thousands of wells being drilled each year, with no surcharge for exporting, the water usage is becoming a “serious problem” and shows the “dark sides” of the new oil and gas extraction methods. “They are threatening to suck us dry of very limited resources out west,”
The Bakken pulled North Dakota from ninth to second in oil production in just a few years, but one of the costs of fracking is at least four billion gallons of water removed from the hydrological cycle in the past year. …
LeResche said coalbed methane (CBM) production has already compromised Wyoming’s groundwater quantity. “A study by the Wyoming State Engineer found that the Fort Union aquifer has dropped as much as 625 feet since 1997 due, in large part, to extraction and disposal of groundwater used for CBM production,” LeResche said. “It would take 50,000 years to replenish the aquifer.”
“Colorado already has competition for water. We can’t create more water. Removing water from the hydrological system is unwise,” said Bob Arrington, a retired engineer from Mesa Battlement, Colo., and member of the Western Colorado Congress. It also found that the four state agencies have “continued to emphasize permitting new wells over regulation” and “have often joined the industry in an effort to downplay the impacts of oil and gas extraction.”
A proportion (25% to 100%) of the water used in hydraulic fracturing is not recovered, and consequently this water is lost permanently to re-use, which differs from some other water uses in which water can be recovered and processed for re-use.
“Drilling and hydraulically fracturing wells can be water-intensive procedures; however, there is very limited Canadian experience from which to estimate potential environmental impacts.” ….the rate of development of shale gas may become limited by the availability of required resources, such as fresh water…. ]