Fallin Directs Officials to Discuss Alternatives for Quake-Linked Wastewater

  • Logan Layden
Gov. Mary Fallin speaking at the 2013 Governor's Energy Conference in Tulsa, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin speaking at the 2013 Governor's Energy Conference in Tulsa, Okla.

The 36th annual Oklahoma Governor’s Water Conference in Norman included the usual fare: updates on regional water plans, drought mitigation, and experts from other states sharing their water insights. But Gov. Mary Fallin came with a new idea to save water — and reduce earthquakes.

Fallin told the crowd Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry injected 1.5 billion barrels of wastewater from fracking into the ground last year, a process scientists have linked to the state’s earthquake swarm.

“So today I want to announce the Water for 2060 Produced Water Working Group … to develop opportunities for freshwater for reuse and recycling from oil and gas produced water.” Fallin told the crowd. “And I’m also very equally interested in looking at alternatives to deep well disposal of water.”

‘Water for 2060’ refers to the state’s goal of using less freshwater in 2060 than was used in 2010. The Water for 2060 Committee recently recommended finding ways to make use of the wastewater produced at oil and gas well sites, besides pumping it into deep below the surface where it can trigger quakes.

“What a win-win for all if we can turn wasted water into a useful resource, while at the same time reducing seismic activity caused by deep well injection.”

Fallin mentioned crop irrigation and industrial use — not human consumption — as potential ways cleaned wastewater could be reused to mitigate the impacts of future droughts.

A press release from Fallin’s office says the group will be non-regulatory, and focused on identifying the barriers to reusing produced water.