News Feature | November 25, 2014

Water Scarcity: Don't Blame Oil And Gas Companies

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Don't blame water scarcity on the energy industry.

That's one angle covered in a white paper by Ryan Sitton, a recently elected Railroad Commissioner in Texas. Sitton will soon join a body of three members who regulate oil, gas, mining and pipeline issues in the state.

In the paper, Sitton lays out his view that oil and gas companies cannot be held entirely responsible for Texas' enormous water challenges.

"Even if we eliminated all water usage for oil and gas production, that would only save the state [of Texas] less than 1% of the total water used in the state," Sitton said, per NGI's Shale Daily. "I believe strongly that we need comprehensive solutions that evaluate every type of water usage in Texas and encourage conservation, recycling, reuse and other options to optimize water utilization in a comprehensive way."

Sitton points to energy industry water consumption as a small part of the water scarcity dilemma.

"While the total amount of water usage has increased, the proportion of fresh water used to the amount of oil/gas produced has actually decreased," he wrote, per Shale Daily.

He also notes that energy companies are increasing their use of recycled water.

"The ratio of recycled/reused water and brackish water to fresh water is also changing dramatically. Oil and gas operators are increasingly using non-freshwater in their operations. Over three years, according to the Texas Oil and Gas Association, they increased non-freshwater usage by 600% (from 3% to 21%)," he wrote.

Residential water use is sometimes a bigger problem, according to Sitton, who says on his website that "watering Texas lawns in 2011 consumed 18 times more water than hydraulic fracturing."

Sitton was highlighted this year as part of Houston Business Journal's "40 under 40" Texas politicians.

"Politically, I want to help the state of Texas and the United States articulate more effective policies on energy development. This is truly a unique time in history in which the United States has the opportunity to reassert itself as the most prominent force in energy production and energy markets," Sitton said in the report.

Image credit: "Odessa, Texas" Charles Henry © 2014, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: