Recycling Wastewater Poised To Get Bigger In Texas

While everything is bigger in Texas, it seems that reusing wastewater is about to get huge. Both public and private entities are pushing hard to increase water reuse for both environmental and economic reasons.

Basins and underground aquifers supply the bulk of drinking water statewide. Despite Texas being the home to the first direct potable reuse facility in the U.S., reuse has comprised just a single-digit percentage of the state’s water supply for decades. According to the Texas Water Development Board’s (TWDB) 2022 State Water Plan, the Lone Star State aims to change that, increasing the amount of direct and indirect potable reuse from 4% in 2020 to 15% by 2070.

At present, Texas is home to five indirect potable reuse facilities and one direct potable reuse, with a second in the design phase. TWDB’s 2022 State Water Plan recommended 16 additional potential reuse projects. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the state’s regulatory agency, recently published a guidance manual explaining how the state regulates direct potable reuse and what is required for a public water system to receive approval.

Private industry is also getting on board for its own reasons. Texas Produced Water Consortium recently released a report that estimated the state’s Permian Basin produced 11 million barrels of fracking wastewater — or 462 million gallons — per day in 2019, the last year of available data. The Permian basin in West Texas is the top oil producing region of the country. This produced water is incredibly brackish and is normally stored in underground wells. However, this means trucking millions of gallons of freshwater into the basin every day. According to the Consortium’s report, scarcity conditions are making this economically challenging.

Thankfully, fracking water doesn’t have to be anywhere close to potable. As such, companies like XRI Holdings, which recycles oilfield wastewater in the Permian Basin, are rapidly expanding their pipeline infrastructure in order to treat and reuse produced water for fracking. The expansion allows customers to send wastewater and draw new water from a system on site, no trucks involved.

“When people begin to see there is economic value in that dirty water, people are going to start claiming it,” said Ira Yates, the fourth-generation beneficiary of an 8,000-acre family oil lease in the West Texas town of Iraan and a member of the Produced Water Society. “Today it’s a liability but it will end up being an asset.”

Featured image credit: Photo by Enrique Macias on Unsplash

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