How Can We Cope with the Dirty Water from Fracking?
The first option is to reuse wastewater in whatever ways possible. For fracking, "to the extent possible, fracturing fluid is recovered and recycled for reuse in future fracturing operations," says Reid Porter, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group. "Recycling of flow-back water reduces demand for freshwater and reduces the need for disposal of wastewater."
To add to the challenge of sheer volume, the water produced by each oil and gas well is often different—with varying levels of acidity, saltiness or types of contaminants, whether dissolved hydrocarbons or heavy metals leached from the surrounding rock.
The most common solution, in the end, remains simply to inject the contaminated water down a disposal well that penetrates deeper than any drinking-water resources. More than 90 percent of the water used or produced in oil and gas operations is disposed of in this way, in the nation's more than 150,000 such wells. More and more new disposal wells are being drilled to cope with the rising flood of frack water.