New rules to encourage the state’s oil and natural gas operators to conserve water used in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) processes were adopted Tuesday by the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC).

Fracking and total mining use accounts for less than 1% of statewide water use, according to the RRC. Irrigation, municipalities and manufacturing are the state’s top three water consumers.

“By removing regulatory hurdles, these new amendments will help foster the recycling efforts by oil and gas operators who continue to examine ways to reduce freshwater use when hydraulically fracturing well,” said RRC Chairman Barry Smitherman.

Under the changes, no state permit would be needed if an operator were to recycle fluids on its leases or transfer fluids to another operator’s lease for recycling. The changes also clarify recycling permit application rules and “reflect existing standard field conditions for recycling permits,” the commission said.

The rule amendment establishes five categories of commercial recycling permits to reflect industry practices in the field: on-lease commercial solid oil and gas waste recycling; off-lease or centralized commercial solid oil and gas waste recycling; stationary commercial solid oil and gas waste recycling; off-lease commercial fluid recycling; and stationary commercial fluid recycling.

A tiered approach also was established for reusing treated fluid, including both authorized reuse of treated fluids in oil and gas operations, as well as provisions for reusing the fluid for uses outside oilfields.

“Just as our operators have used technology to bring us into this modern day boom of oil production, they are also using technology to reduce their freshwater use,” said Commissioner Christi Craddick. “The changes…will assist in those efforts.”