As California’s four-year-old drought worsens and draws increasing government restrictions, the state’s oil production, ranked third nationally, may provide some measure of relief, particularly for the multi-billion-dollar agriculture industry.

Billions of gallons of the produced water from oilfields now are being treated and diverted for agriculture and other non-drinking water uses, state officials told NGI‘s Shale Daily.

California Resources Corp. (CRC) CEO Todd Stevens said his company last year diverted about 2 billion gallons of produced water to agriculture. He spoke Tuesday at the Independent Petroleum Association of America’s (IPAA) oil/gas symposium in New York City.

“In California, the drought is the No. 1 issue we deal with,” Stevens said. “We’re trying to do things that will make a difference, and last year we provided more than 2 billion gallons of water to agriculture, and overall we netted more water to agriculture than we used from a freshwater standpoint in our production operations by more than 200 million gallons.”

Longer term, CRC has a goal of providing more than 8 billion gallons of water from its operations each year, he said.

“We’re bringing up water out of hydrocarbon reservoirs that would otherwise never be brought to the surface, and never was something that was considered for use by agriculture,” Stevens said. “We have learned a lot about what it does for agriculture and how much saline can be in the water and still be useful.”

A spokesperson at the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) said the latest statewide statistics tallied about 25,000 acre-feet of water, or 8.15 billion gallons, produced in the oilfields and diverted to agriculture in various parts of the San Joaquin Valley.

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 1281 into law concerning oil/gas production and water use. The law beefs up the detailed level of reporting on the source and use of water produced with oil.

Steve Bohlen, who heads DOGGR, at the time reported statistics showing the state’s total oil production of nearly 200 million bbl last year also produced more than 3 billion barrels of water (see Shale Daily, Sept. 26, 2014).