Louisiana’s efforts to guide natural gas drillers to alternative water sources and to track the sources of water used in drilling operations are helping to protect groundwater resources in the state’s northwestern Haynesville Shale area, according to a report from the Louisiana Ground Water Resources Program (LGWRP).

Nearly 80% of water used for drilling operations in Louisiana’s Haynesville Shale now comes from surface water sources, according to LGWRP.

An LGWRP study found that 1.5 billion gallons of surface water was used in the operations of more than 420 wells drilled in northwest Louisiana between Oct. 2009 and July 2010, LGWRP staffers told the state’s Ground Water Resources Commission (GWRC).

“We can observe that these companies are cooperating with the state as we seek the balance of meeting the needs of energy production and our environment,” said Lt. Gov. Scott Angelle, chairman of the GWRC. “We can find a way in Louisiana to develop energy resources without compromising our stewardship responsibilities in protecting our environment.”

The state’s commissioner of conservation first advised operators in the Haynesville Shale to seek surface water or other alternatives to groundwater for hydraulic fracturing needs in 2008.

Louisiana’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has pointed to an agreement earlier this year between Exco Resources Inc. and a DeSoto Parish paper mill as an example of a natural gas company finding an alternative to groundwater for hydraulic fracturing operations. Under terms of the 12-year agreement, Exco will use treated water discharged from the mill for hydraulic fracturing in the DeSoto area. Exco will replace up to 4.2 billion gallons of water that would otherwise come from groundwater or surface water sources with water from the mill that has been treated to state and federal standards for discharge, DNR said.

Contractors developing a statewide water management plan are scheduled to present a draft report to the GWRC later this year, according to DNR.

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