From 2013 to 2022, these companies reported more than 10,000 individual spills totaling more than 148 million gallons of produced water, and only about 40 percent of the water reported spilled during this period was recovered, said the report, citing the first-ever public analysis of this kind conducted by the nonprofit Inside Climate News.
The spills ranged from small leaks of less than 10 gallons to massive incidents, said the report, noting that 19 of the reported spills exceeded 500,000 gallons. Some of the most damaging incidents occurred when produced water was spilled directly into streams, rivers, or lakes.
"From a large spill of 756,000 gallons into the Delaware River in West Texas that sent chloride levels soaring, to hundreds of small spills in one Permian Basin county, there's hardly a corner of Texas not impacted," the report lamented.
Both conventional oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, rely upon large quantities of water, sand and proprietary chemicals, some of which are toxic, to free the oil and gas from geologic formations deep underground, said the report.
The highly saline water can render land barren for years. In parts of Texas, residents have filed lawsuits detailing damage from contaminated well water to poisoned cattle.
A 2022 report calculated that the Permian Basin alone is generating 3.9 billion barrels, or over 168 billion gallons, of produced water a year. That means wastewater must be piped off well pads, stored in tanks, and trucked to disposal wells. As of July, Texas had more than 161,000 oil wells and 86,000 gas wells in production, according to the report.