Report: Natural Gas Development Saves Texas Water

Thursday, October 01, 2015

new report from North Texans for Natural Gas shows how increased natural gas use in Texas will help the state save billions of gallons of water per year, rebutting a common claim from drilling critics. The report also shows that the fracking process accounts for only one-half of one percent (0.5 percent) of the state’s total water usage.

As we’ve mentioned on the blog before, natural gas production has had a tremendous economic impact on Texas, especially North Texas, where natural gas production from the Barnett Shale supports over 107,000 jobs and contributes billions of dollars to the local economy. But one often ignored benefit of natural gas is how it helps conserve the state’s precious water resources.
Many critics of fracking have claimed that the process consumes vast amounts of water, and thus natural gas is a net negative in terms of Texans’ water conservation efforts. However, as this new report explains, that argument is unfounded and just plain untrue.
Key facts from the report include:
  • When compared to other major baseload energy sources, natural gas consumes between 60 and 70 percent less water.
  • Water used for energy development amounts to less than one percent of all water used in Texas, and fracking specifically only amounts to about 0.5 percent.
  • A 2013 study by researchers at University of Texas at Austin (UT) found that by increasing the share of natural gas used in power generation, Texas could reduce its freshwater consumption by 53 billion gallons per year.
  • Natural gas-fired electricity generation saves a lot more water than what’s used during production, including water used for fracking. In fact, using natural gas to generate electricity saves Texas a net 33 gallons of water for every gallon used statewide in the fracking process.
  • Water use for energy development is expected to decline significantly – more than 16 billion gallons per year in the coming decades.
  • Low water demand for fracking is not just a current trend. The Texas Water Development Board projects that “mining” (of which fracking makes up a fraction) will account for only 1.3 percent of water demand in Texas by 2060.
  • Over 95 percent of renewable electricity generation in Texas comes from wind power, which is intermittent and cannot provide base load power. But natural gas has the ability to act as a “backstop” for non-water intensive renewables in times of high market demand, further shielding Texas from the effects of a drought.
Cheap and abundant natural gas is vital for the Texas economy and environment. The water saving benefits of natural gas-generated power will help the state become more drought resilient, decrease water usage by billions of gallons per year, and supplement renewables to ensure reliable, non-water intensive electricity generation in times of high demand.
The full report can be downloaded here.
The references for the report can be downloaded here.