Sign up to receive email updates, action alerts, health tips, promotions to support our work and more from EWG. You can opt-out at any time. [Privacy]


Monster Wells

Despite Drought, Hundreds of Fracking Sites Used More Than 10 Million Gallons of Water

Monster Wells Are Common in Drought Areas (Table-3 & Table-4)

November 18, 2014

Monster Wells: Monster Wells Are Common in Drought Areas (Table-3 & Table-4)

By a wide margin, Texas had the most monster wells drilled in abnormally dry or drought areas, as classified by the U.S. Drought Monitor, with 137 in the period examined. Of the other states, only Colorado had as many as 11 wells in abnormally dry or drought areas.

Table 3. Texas Monster Wells in Drought Areas, Jan. 2011 – May 2013

Drought condition Monster wells
Abnormally dry 29
Moderate 49
Severe 33
Extreme 18
Exceptional 8

Source: Environmental Working Group analysis of data from and the U.S. Drought Monitor

Texas not only has the most monster wells and the most monster wells in drought areas but uses more fresh water for fracking. The industry says the geology of the state’s production regions makes using fresh, pure water more effective – and cheaper.

In the Permian Midland oil field, “some operators purchase water from landowners or even cities and truck it in,” reported the San Angelo Standard-Times, “but most forgo the added expense and drill water wells on site, store the water in pits temporarily and then haul it in trucks to oil well sites.”27

A report from the University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology, prepared for the Texas Oil & Gas Association, estimates that statewide 79 percent of the water used for fracking is fresh. In 2011, more than 21 billion gallons of fresh water were used for fracking in Texas.28, 29

Table 4. Types of Water for Fracking in Texas Oil and Gas Producing Regions, 2011

Region Recycled Brackish Fresh
Anadarko Basin 20% 30% 50%
Barnett 5% 3% 92%
Eagle Ford 0 20% 80%
East Texas Basin 5% 0 95%
Permian Far West 0 80 20%
Permian Midland 2% 30% 68%

Source: Bureau of Economic Geology, University of Texas at Austin School of Geosciences, 2012