GSI Publication on Oil and Gas Water Management Practices

This paper
, authored by Ann Smith, Steve Richardson and Cole Van de Ven with GSI, provides an overview of current water-related issues, management strategies, and innovative techniques to address water challenges for unconventional resource development. The review focuses on critical components of the water cycle for oil and gas development: water demand, alternative water sources, water conveyance, and produced-water treatment, recycling, reuse, storage, and disposal.

Recent Findings

Operators continue to face a variety of water management challenges associated with unconventional oil and gas development, including demand for large quantities of fresh (or chemically compatible) water, storage of substantial volumes of produced water, characterization and treatment of water, and water conveyance over potentially long distances. In response, innovations in recycling, reuse, water quality treatment and testing, and infrastructure will change the future of unconventional development, allowing for hydraulic-fracturing techniques using little to no freshwater, reduced waste, and improved cost efficiencies.


Water is a vital commodity to the unconventional resource development industry, yet it presents unique technical, economic, and social challenges for water management strategies. As production from shale gas and tight oil plays continues to grow, the demand for reliable sources of water and the need for innovative management strategies for produced water will, in turn, continue to increase. Recent advances in the use of alternative water sources and produced-water characterization, recycling, and reuse will provide the foundation for future economical unconventional resource development in the US.

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