Estimating national water use associated with unconventional oil and gas development

Fact Sheet 2016-3032
By: , and 



The U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Water Availability and Use Science Program (WAUSP) goals are to provide a more accurate assessment of the status of the water resources of the United States and assist in the determination of the quantity and quality of water that is available for beneficial uses. These assessments would identify long-term trends or changes in water availability since the 1950s in the United States and help to develop the basis for an improved ability to forecast water avail- ability for future economic, energy-production, and environmental uses. The National Water Census (, a research program of the WAUSP, supports studies to develop new water accounting tools and assess water availability at the regional and national scales. Studies supported by this program target focus areas with identified water availability concerns and topical science themes related to the use of water within a specific type of environmental setting. The topical study described in this fact sheet will focus on understanding the relation between production of unconventional oil and gas (UOG) for energy and the water needed to produce and sustain this type of energy development. This relation applies to the life-cycle of renewable and nonrenewable forms of UOG energy and includes extraction, production, refinement, delivery, and disposal of waste byproducts. Water-use data and models derived from this topical study will be applied to other similar oil and gas plays within the United States to help resource managers assess and account for water used or needed in these areas. Additionally, the results from this topical study will be used to further refine the methods used in compiling water-use data for selected categories (for example, mining, domestic self-supplied, public supply, and wastewater) in the USGS’s 5-year national water-use estimates reports (

Suggested Citation

Carter, J.M., Macek-Rowland, K.M., Thamke, J.N., Delzer, G.C., 2016, Estimating national water use associated with unconventional oil and gas development: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2016–3032, 6 p.,

ISSN: 2327-6932 (online)

ISSN: 2327-6916 (print)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Water Availability and Use Science Program of the U.S. Geological Survey
  • Water Use and Unconventional Oil and Gas Development
  • Synopsis of Plans
  • Background and Selection of Sites
  • Williston Basin Pilot Site
  • Phase I of the Water Use Topical Study
  • Water-Use Analysis and Data Needs
  • Model Development
  • References Cited


Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Estimating national water use associated with unconventional oil and gas development
Series title Fact Sheet
Series number 2016-3032
DOI 10.3133/fs20163032
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) South Dakota Water Science Center, Dakota Water Science Center
Description 6 p.
Country United States
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details