Shale Daily / NGI All News Access

Eagle Ford Shale Water Use In 'Developing Stage,' Says Official

Texas keeps getting hotter and drier, and aquifer water levels keep declining as homeowners, farmers and oil and gas drillers keep pumping water for their various uses. However, one water watcher told NGI's Shale Daily he does not expect curtailments on water use for drilling/hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the Eagle Ford Shale.

"Not in the Carrizo[-Wilcox Aquifer], and that's where the majority of the water [for Eagle Ford drilling/fracking] is going to come from," said Mike Mahoney, general manager of the Evergreen Underground Water Conservation District.

"Yeah, there's going to be some effects on people and water levels, but right now everybody's pumping, and so it's really hard to point a finger in any general direction. It's just an overall issue. We are seeing water levels dropping in the Carrizo, but most of the [water] wells that they're using for frack water are the deeper wells in the southern part of the Carrizo, and they're not really around any of the irrigation and other high-use areas."

The Evergreen district encompasses all of Atascosa, Frio, Wilson and Karnes counties in South Texas.

If there is an area where water levels are a concern in South Texas, it would be in Karnes County in the Gulf Coast Aquifer, Mahoney said. "It's not near as prolific as the Carrizo. A lot of those [water] wells are completed in the same zone as existing domestic and livestock wells, so we are monitoring those for both water levels and water quality. It's just kind of a day-by-day thing," he said.

Wells in the Gulf Coast aquifer are not drying up, but there is a reason to be concerned as the Texas drought stretches on, Mahoney said. "The drought just exacerbates it, makes it that much worse." Mahoney said the district is increasing its monitoring of water levels in the Gulf Coast Aquifer.

"What we need from the oil companies is quite simple: How much are you pumping. And we're having pretty good results with that [reporting]. That's helping us." Mahoney said he has been meeting with producers and oilfield companies to discuss water issues, and those issues will also be a topic of conversation at the next Eagle Ford Task Force meeting planned for later this month.

"In general [oil and gas companies] want to be good neighbors; they're willing to work with us. This is in a developing stage. What I'm seeing is they want to come to the table; they want to sit down and they want to try to find solutions and work with us..."

The district recently finished the first round for its latest groundwater management area (GMA) planning. At the time it was begun, the Eagle Ford "was out there, but it was not to the point where it is now, so we really didn't get any numbers into the first round of that plan on what was going to be used for drilling and fracking," Mahoney said.

He's proposed that energy companies "put together plans that basically give us some numbers of what they perceive that they're going to use annually for the next 10 years or so, so we can bring those numbers into our next round of planning and we can have that water accounted for in our next round of our plan."

Mahoney said his staff at the district has been overloaded with Eagle Ford-related issues and inquiries. There have been numerous permit requests, along with questions from landowners and those who want to sell water to producers. Some have seen water levels in their wells drop so low that they've had to lower their pumps, and this has sparked more inquiries at the district, Mahoney said. "We're also in a drought, so it's just one of those things right now for us; it's almost a day-by-day situation."

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