Texas is not doing a good enough job of tracking and managing its water resources, according to research from Texas A&M University.
Researchers looked at water used for the H2O-intensive drilling process called fracking in Texas, and how the practice could be draining resources. They found that only a small fraction of the state’s water supply goes to fracking, but tracking that water use itself is devilishly difficult.
"We really need to have a record of the extraction of water resources," says Lori Taylor, the director of Texas A&M’s Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics and Public Policy. "We have the technology now to be able to do so, to be able to say which wells are using fresh water and which wells are using brackish."
The report found that fracking is not nearly as big a drain on Texas aquifers as agricultural water use. But unlike many other uses, the process permanently removes water from the hydrological cycle, and the report suggests the use of brackish water for fracking.
It also suggests revamping Texas' "rule of capture" water laws, which give property owners the rights to all water under their lands.
"Basically, there is nothing in the way we currently regulate water...that encourages people that have the right to pump water to conserve that water," says Taylor.
She says the report also recommends policy changes at the state level to make water rights more tradable, which she says would be beneficial for city water supplies.