Produced Water


Produced water is defined as the water that exists in subsurface formations and is brought to the surface during oil and gas production. Water is generated from conventional oil and gas production, as well as the production of unconventional sources such as coal bed methane, tight sands, and gas shale. The concentration of constituents and the volume of produced water differ dramatically depending on the type and location of the petroleum product. Produced water accounts for the largest waste stream volume associated with oil and gas production.


The Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) developed a multi-stakeholder working group to identify opportunities and challenges associated with utilizing produced water as a resource and to provide suggestions that policy makers, researchers, regulators and others can use to address them.

As freshwater resources have become more constrained, the ability to use produced water to offset freshwater demand both inside and outside of the oilfield will offer opportunities and challenges. Since the early days of oil and gas development, the water brought to the surface as a byproduct of the oil and gas production process has been considered a waste. It was not until the 1930s that some of this “produced water” began to be injected back into producing reservoirs as a means of enhancing oil production. When unconventional oil and gas development began in earnest in the early 2000s, the need for water resources to conduct hydraulic fracturing provided a potential new use for produced water.

The working group consists of state oil and gas and water quality regulatory officials, industry, environmental NGOs, academics and others to develop a report that can be used by policy makers, researchers and regulators to further the goal of conserving freshwater by identifying current practices, research needs, opportunities and challenges for facilitating produced water use instead of fresh water, where possible. 

Additional Resources

Produced Water Task Force Quarterly Newsletter
Partnership between the GWPC and Environmental Defense Fund


Resolution 17-1