Water management

New Consortium Explores Produced Water Issues in Texas

Signed into law last month, the Texas Produced Water Consortium will be hosted by Texas Tech and bring together stakeholders, key experts, and industry to address produced water challenges.


Texas Tech University will serve as the administrator for the newly created Texas Produced Water Consortium, a collaborative effort to explore options, alternatives, and potential economic impacts for the billions of gallons of produced water in Texas each year. The consortium will bring together industry, stakeholders, and university expertise to grow understanding, formulate research, and collaborate on options for produced water use and management in Texas.

The consortium, introduced to the Texas legislature by state Senator Charles Perry and signed by Governor Greg Abbott in June, will study the economic impact of and technology needed to reuse produced water, including environmental and public health considerations.

The move by Texas follows the creation of a similar consortium in New Mexico in 2019, which solicited proposals for produced water recycling research and development projects earlier this year.

“As chairman of the Senate Committee on Water, Agriculture, and Rural Affairs, it has been a mission of mine to find new water resources for Texans, and specifically, our rural and agriculture communities,” said Perry. “Water is a finite resource, and produced water has the potential to inject millions of acre-feet into an area of the state that exists in persistent drought. I have confidence that through a robust stakeholder process, Texas Tech can navigate these new waters and develop one or more pilot projects to lead the nation in innovation.”

Produced water is water trapped in underground formations brought to the surface during oil and gas exploration and production. It also is known as brine, saltwater, or formation water. Each year, oil and gas exploration generates more than 800 billion gallons of produced water—6% of the full storage capacity of all water supply reservoirs in Texas.

The primary challenge presented by produced water is its high salt content. Options to use this water for alternative purposes beyond oil and gas operations have been neither fully understood nor capitalized upon. More importantly, alternative uses for produced water could provide significant water resources in drought-stricken areas and those relying on diminishing water resources like the Ogallala Aquifer beneath the US Great Plains.

The consortium will be responsible for producing a report that will outline a model for the economical and efficient use of produced water that does not harm the public or environment and will lead to greater use, reducing the freshwater footprint in the state of Texas. The report also will include a plan for an economic and technological pilot program for a statewide facility designed to recycle produced water.

In addition to consortium members, the Texas Produced Water Consortium will consist of a stakeholder advisory council and a government agency advisory council. The stakeholder advisory council will include member representatives from the oil and gas industry, agricultural water users, industrial water users, environmental interests, public water utilities, landowners, groundwater owners, commercial water recyclers, and midstream companies.

The government agency advisory council will include members from the Texas Railroad Commission, the State Energy Conservation Office, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Economic Development & Tourism Department, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, the Texas Department of Agriculture, and the Texas Water Development Board.