Disposal of Water for Hydraulic Fracturing: Case Study on the U.S.

  • Romany WebbEmail author
  • Katherine R. Zodrow
Part of the Water Security in a New World book series (WSEC)


In 2012, the U.S. oil and gas industry produced approximately 3.4 × 109 cubic meters (m3) of water, equivalent to 9.1 × 106 m3 per day and greater than six times the amount of water treated by the City of Houston, Texas. This “produced water” consists of drilling or completion fluids that exit a well shortly after it is brought into production, along with water occurring naturally in the rock formation that exits with the oil and/or gas. Produced water can be contaminated by hydrocarbons, metals, radioactive material, and salts, which can make recycling and disposal difficult. In this chapter, we will discuss two aspects of produced water handling—regulation and technology—specifically focusing on five U.S. regions—the Permian, Eagle Ford, Bakken, Marcellus, and Niobrara. We will explore various disposal practices used in each region and consider how the regulatory framework influences those practices. The focus will be on regulations in six states – Texas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, and Wyoming – with jurisdiction over the above regions. Just as the regions have remarkably different geology, and therefore different quality of produced water, these six states also have different regulatory frameworks. To illustrate these differences, we undertake a detailed exploration of the regulations in Texas and Pennsylvania and compare other states’ regulations where appropriate. The analysis highlights the complexity of produced water regulation, treatment, and disposal within the United States.


Waste disposal Injection wells Produced water Recycling Frac fluid Texas Pennsylvania 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Climate Law Fellow, Sabin Center for Climate Change LawColumbia Law SchoolNew York CityUSA
  2. 2.James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Energy Studies, Rice UniversityHoustonUSA
  3. 3.Environmental EngineeringMontana Technological UniversityButteUSA

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