Appalachian pure-play Southwestern Energy Co.’s various water conservation projects returned 10 billion gallons of fresh water to the environment in 2019.

The amount of water used in hydraulic fracturing operations has continued to grow, adding urgency to considerations of water conservation and management as oil and gas operations consume more fresh water.

Southwestern’s strategy has involved 10 different water conservation projects across several states, including stream channel and habitat restoration; waterway and floodplain improvements; wetland creation; and aquatic habitat restoration, the company said Tuesday.

Southwestern declared in 2016 a commitment to remaining “fresh water neutral” across its operations, meaning each gallon of fresh water used is replenished or offset.

“Water is a vital resource and is essential to energy development, so protecting, conserving and enhancing water quality across our operations is a top commitment for us and our stakeholders,” said CEO Bill Way.

The most recent of Southwestern’s 10 projects was completed in May and involved restoring the Cheat River’s Muddy Creek watershed in West Virginia, which underwent water quality impairments stemming from third-party acid mine drainage unrelated to Southwestern’s operations.

Water conservation in regions of high oil and gas production has been the source of environmental pushback to development projects and spawned legislation like New Mexico’s House Bill 546, which was signed into law in July. Producers across the country are also developing strategies to better handle and reuse water.