Water used in the hydraulic fracturing process is usually managed and disposed of in one of three ways:
- injected in permitted disposal wells in accordance with Underground Injection Control regulations;
- delivered to water treatment facilities depending on permitting (in certain regions of the country, the water is actually treated to remove pollutants and achieve all regulated specifications and then surface discharged);
Disposal options are dependent on a variety of factors, including the availability of suitable injection zones; the capacity of commercial and/or municipal water treatment facilities; and the ability of either operators or such plants to successfully obtain surface water discharge permits. The most important factor however is working with state, regional and local regulators to develop a wastewater plan that ensures surface and groundwater quality. This includes establishing a baseline for water quality before drilling operations are initiated.
Though there have been no reported problems in using municipal sewage treatment facilities for wastewater disposal many members of the public are uneasy about processing wastewater in this way. Thus we have seen increased use of specialized treatment facilities and increased wastewater recycling/reuse. Recycling/reuse has the additional benefit of reducing water needs and can be a key enabler for large scale future developments.