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More Oil And Gas Drillers Turn To Water Recycling

Similar issues have arisen in arid parts of Wyoming, North Dakota, New Mexico and Colorado.

Farther east, states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, face different issues. There, water is relatively plentiful but disposal of wastewater has been bureaucratically difficult and expensive, while the sites that can collect it are scarce.

States are scrambling to draft regulations for the new recycling systems.

In Texas, requests for recycling permits rose from fewer than two a year in 2011 to 30 approved applications in fiscal year 2012. So the Texas Railroad Commission, the agency that oversees oil and gas operations, revamped the rules in March, eliminating the need for drillers to get a permit if they recycle on their own lease or on a third-party's property.

Commission spokeswoman Ramona Nye said in an email that the new rules are designed to "help operators enhance their water conservation efforts" and encourage recycling.

In Ohio, disposing of drilling wastewater has hit some obstacles. Activity at a deep injection well near Youngstown was tied to one in a series of earthquakes, and a former officer of the firm that ran the operation has been indicted in connection with a separate dumping incident that allegedly violated the Clean Water Act. That led to a temporary moratorium on disposal sites in that region, stricter rules and an EPA review.

Pennsylvania, meanwhile, has few dumping sites, and operators once paid large sums to haul wastewater to Ohio. Recycling has now become cheaper, and transports to Ohio have dwindled.

Back in Texas, Fasken Oil and Ranch believes it solved many of its early problems with the containment pools, tanks, pipelines and trailers. Within six months, the company expects to reach its goal of using no freshwater in its fracking operations a¿¿ a feat made possible by combining recycled water with briny water drawn from an aquifer and treated.

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