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Bakken water supply: Program allowing irrigation water for fracking ends

Infrastructure in western North Dakota is finally catching up with demand, evident in the state engineer’s office discontinuation of a program which allowed farmers to sell irrigation water for use in the oil and gas industry.

As reported by the Forum News Service (FNS), in 2011, the engineer’s office created the Industrial Water Use in Lieu of Irrigation Policy in an emergency effort to meet the industry’s demand for water. The program allowed farmers who hold water permits to pause agricultural irrigation for a season in favor of using the water for the hydraulic fracturing process.

In the early days of the boom, water distribution and availability were lacking so thousands of trucks were required to haul water long distances to well sites. The increased traffic lead to road damage and more traffic accidents. Now, however, roads have been improved and expanded, more water pipelines and depots are in place and demand is down.

Director of Water Appropriations Jon Patch told the FNS, “We’re seeing a big drop in activity. We’re not seeing the amount of truck traffic, which is what created the emergency in the first place.” Due to the slowdown, the engineer’s office decided that the program is no longer necessary.

The program will be discontinued on December 31 in all areas except two that are lacking sufficient industrial water supplies. Those two areas include the Skjermo Lake aquifer in Divide County and part of the Little Muddy aquifer in Williams County, both of which will be part of the program until September 15, 2016.

At the height of the program in 2012, the emergency policy provided the oil and gas industry with 1.34 gallons through 33 permits held by 26 users, reports the FNS. The program accounted for one of every four gallons used for fracking operations in North Dakota. To read the full article, click here.

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