Produced Water

Produced water is a naturally occurring, saline water recovered during oil and gas production. Produced water includes formation water, hydraulic fracturing fluid flowback, and any chemicals added during routine production operations.

Oil and gas operations in the state generate an abundance of produced water. For every barrel of oil produced in New Mexico, for example, three to six barrels of water are produced, giving this water its name of “produced water.”

Once the produced water is separated from the oil and gas, it needs to be either used or disposed of.

Most produced water is disposed of by injecting it into geologic formations that are thousands of feet below the surface and below useable groundwater. The water is injected through water disposal wells. However, reinjecting the water can have unintended consequences. Research has linked deep underground injection of produced water to increases in seismicity in several states, including New Mexico.

Instead of reinjecting produced water into disposal wells, produced water has the potential to help New Mexico preserve its surface and underground freshwater resources.

Preserving Our Freshwater

Treated produced water is currently being re-used in oil and gas operations to reduce the use of freshwater. Treated produced water also can be used for fire control, to support power generation, and for vehicle and equipment washing. It also can be used for non-edible crop irrigation like cotton.

Private industry and government agencies at the state and federal levels are researching and investing in technology to reduce the cost of treating and reusing produced water to transform produced water from a waste to a resource.

New Mexico State University, working collaboratively with the New Mexico Environment Department, is host to the New Mexico Produced Water Research Consortium, a trans-disciplinary public-private partnership advancing scientific and technological solutions to treat, and reuse produced water generated by the oil and gas industry.

Other types of water:

Potable Water: Potable water, or drinking water, is safe for people to drink. To be safe to drink, water must be purified through a series of treatment steps.

Fresh Water: Water that contains less than 1,000 milligrams per liter of dissolved solids, most often salt. Despite its name, fresh water must be treated for it to be safe to drink. Fresh water is found naturally on the Earth's surface as ice, as water in wetlands, ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams, and as groundwater in aquifers.

Salt Water: More commonly known as seawater, salt water comes from oceans and seas.

Brackish Water: Brackish water comes from natural environments like aquifers. It contains more salt than freshwater, but less salt than seawater.

Raw Water: Raw water is untreated water and does not have any of its minerals, ions, particles, bacteria, or parasites removed. Raw water includes rainwater, ground water, water from infiltration wells, and water from bodies like lakes and rivers.

Wastewater: Water that contains waste from residential, commercial, and industrial processes. Often called black water, wastewater is treated and then sent elsewhere for non-potable (not drinkable) purposes.

Gray Water: Gray water is a type of wastewater that comes from washing dishes, showers, and laundry.

Source: New Mexico Office of the State Engineer