New Mexico Cultivates Idea to Use Oil & Gas Wastewater for Agriculture Irrigation

Nov. 1, 2019

New Mexico is searching for a way to use wastewater for agriculture as the state’s oil and gas well operations continue to increase.

New Mexico leaders are searching for inventive solutions to manage the 40 billion gal of wastewater produced by the state’s oil and gas wells each year, according to the Albuquerque Journal

One suggestion being investigated is to use treated wastewater for agriculture, but this solution ultimately calls into question the short term and long term impacts the water would have on crops or livestock.

Oil companies can reuse the waste water to bring up more oil, but in most instances they dispose of it by pumping it deep underground using injection wells. Scientists concluded that this practice has caused earthquakes in states such as Oklahoma and Kansas, according to the Albuquerque Journal. Both states have passed restrictions on injecting the water, as oil and gas operations have increased dramatically in New Mexico in recent years.

Studies show over 1,600 different ingredients are either used in fracking, found in produced water, or both, reported the Albuquerque Journal. Toxicity data on these chemicals and the tools regulators use to track and limit them are scarce.

New Mexico Environment Department signed a memorandum of understanding in 2018 with New Mexico State University to develop new technologies for treating produced water so that it could potentially be used for agriculture irrigation or even drinking water, reported the NM Political Report.

“New Mexico’s innovation in this area is and will continue to be the envy of other states,” said Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. “Turning this waste product into a commodity is good for preserving fresh water resources, good for compact requirements with other states, good for conservation purposes, good for local and county governments; it’s good for small and large producers, it’s good for agriculture. It’s good for New Mexico and it represents an exciting leap forward.”

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About the Author

Cristina Tuser

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