New Mexico weighs allowing reuse of drilling water

October 22, 2014 GMT

HOBBS, N.M. (AP) — State environmental regulators are considering a rule that would allow oil companies to reuse water that’s already flowed through drilling operations to help reduce the amount of freshwater the industry consumes.

The New Mexico Environment Department is working with the Oil Conservation Commission on the new regulation, agency Secretary David Martin told the Hobbs News-Sun this week ( ).

“It has been worked on for several months now,” Martin said. “Once it is finalized, it will go to OCC, and we are expecting that will probably happen in October, no later than November.”

The draft of the rule is expected this month. Currently, state rules don’t allow water to be reused because of environmental concerns that it may contaminate freshwater supplies.

The changes New Mexico is looking to adopt are similar to those used in Texas, where water is already being reused in drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations, Martin said.


“I had a local producer in Hobbs tell me we need to get away from fresh water,” Martin added. “The economics on reusing produced water is right in there with using fresh water. Historically, produced water has been viewed pretty much as waste, but we want to get away from disposing of it and instead making it an asset.”

John Tintera, president of the Texas Water Recycling Commission, said he met with New Mexico environmental regulators and industry representatives earlier this year to plan the rule.

“New Mexico is in a very exciting time in its regulatory environment,” he said. “It is poised for great things. With it comes the economic boom and the hurdles, one of those is water and there has been a great deal of attention in Texas because of the drought.”

State officials say oil and gas operations use only a fraction of the water consumed in the state — less than 1 percent — while agriculture and residential use dominate the largest shares.