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The Water Quality Control Commission starts hearing on produced water

The New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission held a hearing Monday on the reuse of produced water and other types of wastewater. The hearing is expected to last over a week. Produced water is a byproduct of oil and gas production. The vast majority of water produced is recycled for use in (…)

The New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission held a hearing Monday on the reuse of produced water and other types of wastewater. The hearing is expected to last over a week.

Produced water is a byproduct of oil and gas production. The vast majority of water produced is recycled for use in the oil and gas fields, or injected into the subsurface using saltwater disposal wells. These injection wells have been associated with increased seismic activity in areas such as the Permian Basin, which extends into southeastern New Mexico.

The New Mexico Environment Department petitioned the Water Quality Control Commission in December to adopt a rule for produced water reuse. NMED says these regulations are necessary to protect water resources.

NMED’s Jason Herman said the proposed regulations will close a regulatory loophole that allows anyone to apply for a groundwater discharge permit and “put the department in the position of having to develop a draft permit under existing regulations, regardless of whether spring water is discharged or not. treated produced water.”

He said the proposed regulations include explicit prohibitions on discharging produced water, even if it has undergone treatment.

Additionally, Herman said the proposal provides a “very narrow path for research and for industrial projects to move forward in a safe manner.”

The proposed rule would impose requirements on the use of produced water in industrial processes and demonstration projects. There are already demonstration projects in New Mexico that use produced water or treat produced water, and some of the witnesses who spoke Monday testified about these projects as well as proposals submitted to the NMED.

Witnesses also spoke Monday about the challenges of knowing what chemicals and components are in produced water, some of which are typically not publicly known due to trade secrets.