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A boom in the oil and gas industry made Williston, North Dakota, the fastest growing town in the U.S. Adrian C Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus

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FARMINGTON — In a state that repeatedly struggles with drought, water can be one of the most precious resources. Over the past few years, one source of water has been gaining attention — water produced by oil and gas development.

In 2018, oil and gas development in the Permian Basin resulted in 42 billion gallons of produced water, according to the New Mexico Environment Department. This water generally has high salinity and can contain products used in extraction, such as hydraulic fracturing fluids.

Some residents say this water could be treated and used in place of water from aquifers or surface water. Others say using this water could have health and environmental consequences.

More: Study says New Mexico oil and gas production threatens scarce water resources

The New Mexico Environment Department is hosting a series of public meetings statewide to discuss using produced water for non-oil and gas related activities. Representatives from the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department as well as the Office of the State Engineer are also available to answer questions during these meetings.

“With the volume of produced water that is produced and disposed of each year, it is important to encourage the treatment and reuse of the water over disposal, which has been shown to have unintended consequences,” said EMNRD Oil Conservation Division Director Adrienne Sandoval in a press release announcing the meetings. “This is an important effort that NMED and EMNRD look forward to tackling.”

More: New Mexico looking to recycle fracking waste water from oil and gas operations

The meetings began in mid-October in Albuquerque and the Farmington meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19, in the Little Theatre at San Juan College.

The public input will help as the state embarks on a rulemaking process for produced water.

More: How do other cities recycle waste water from fracking? We headed cross country to find out.

“Our goal is to create regulations that are protective of human health and the environment, reduce industry reliance on fresh water and encourage science-based and innovative solutions,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney in the press release. “To that end, we are including a diverse group of voices from the beginning to ensure these future regulations are done right.”

More information is available at env.nm.gov/new-mexico-produced-water.

Other meetings

The Farmington City Council will discuss possible changes to its ordinances regarding swimming at Lake Farmington when it meets at 9 a.m. Nov. 19 at Farmington City Hall, 800 N. Municipal Drive.

The Farmington Metropolitan Redevelopment Area commission will hear updates about the upcoming renovations in downtown Farmington when it meets at 4 p.m. Nov. 19 at HQ, 119 W. Main St.

The Central Consolidated School District Board of Education will discuss agreements with both New Mexico Highlands University School of Education and Eastern New Mexico University when it meets at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at the board room in the administrative complex in Shiprock.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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