You may not know it, but you're probably drinking recycled water right now. But water from "Fracking?" The process uses as much water as the entire cities of Chicago or Houston, but can it be made safe to drink?
It takes between 70 and 140 BILLION gallons of water to frack 35,000 wells a year at the industry's current pace.
While the recycled water can't be cleaned up enough for drinking or growing crops, it can be cleaned of chemicals an rock debris and used to frack additional wells, which could sharply cut the costs that energy companies face securing and disposing of the water.
Some companies are finding it is still cheaper in many parts of the US to inject the wastewater underground instead of cleaning it (where it can contaminate wells?), which has slowed adoption of recycling technology.
In Texas, where there are plenty of empty oil fields, companies can often use them to inject "used" fracking water. But in places like Pennsylvania, companies have to haul the water for miles to find a place to dump it. In the Northeast, it can cost as much as $8 a gallon to haul and dispose the water.
Despite this, 14% of the water used to frack wells in Pennsylvania is now recycled, up from less than 1% two years ago.
A million new wells will be fracked around the world between now and 2035. In the November 19th edition of the Wall Street Journal, Allison Sider, Russell Gold and Ben Lefebvre quote fracking expert Salvador Ayala as saying that it "is no longer just an environmental issue--it has to be an issue of strategic importance."
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