The extraction of petroleum hydrocarbons, particularly from impermeable strata like shale, is a thirsty process. It requires millions (and sometimes tens of millions) of gallons of water to stimulate a single production well. Couple this need with the feverish pace at which oil and gas production is expanding across the epicenter of shale energy extraction (far West Texas and eastern New Mexico), and it is easy to see the concerns about water resource management.
Unconventional oil and natural gas extraction processes yield an incredible amount of wastewater. In the Permian Basin, as many as two to six barrels of wastewater are collected for every barrel of oil. This is where the story of shale energy extraction and the quest for domestic energy security becomes a tale of tremendous responsibility and opportunity.