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Research into the Characterization of Brackish Water and Disposal of Desalination Reject Water in Saline Aquifers and Depleted Oil and Gas Reservoirs

Ric Jensen

Brackish groundwater is a valuable “drought-proof” resource that is plentiful in much of Texas. If treated by available desalination technologies, brackish groundwater resources could help many regions of Texas cope with pressing water shortages. If put to non-potable uses such as waterflooding, streamflow augmentation, and landscape irrigation, brackish groundwater could free up substantial amounts of drinking water supplies now dedicated to these uses.

In 2007, the Texas Legislature passed landmark legislation that should provide greatly expanded opportunities to beneficially use concentrates from the desalination of brackish groundwater or to streamline the disposal as a waste  product. House Bill 2654 (passed in the 80th Legislative session) has the promise of making it substantially easier to manage concentrates that result from the desalination of brackish groundwater. The bill authorizes the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to issue a general statewide permit that allows disposal of nonhazardous brine from desalination operations into Class I injection wells. The bill also streamlines the process of using the concentrates in Class II injection wells for enhanced oil and gas recovery operations.

However, more still needs to be done in two key areas:
  • Learning more about the chemical traits of brackish groundwater in specific circumstances to ensure that concentrates from desalting these resources are not a hazardous waste,
  • Continuing to develop and implement technologies and management strategies that make these programs most cost-efficient.
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