Office of Conservation

Office of Conservation reinforces that domestic water well owners must notify before selling water for industrial purposes

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources’ Office of Conservation has issued a memo to oil and gas operators working in the Haynesville Shale area to enlist their aid in ensuring water drawn from domestic water wells is not used for industrial purposes, such as the hydraulic fracturing of shale formations, without proper notification to the state.

State Commissioner of Conservation James Welsh has given his Environmental Division staff guidance on informing the public of the proper notification requirements if water from domestic wells is used for a purpose other than that defined by state law.

The guidance statement, and the memo to oil and gas operators referencing the statement, advises that domestic water well owners must provide the Office of Conservation 60 days notice prior to using groundwater from such a well for a non-domestic purpose.

Louisiana law, under R.S. 38:3097.2(5), states a “domestic well shall mean a water well used exclusively to supply the household needs of the owner, lessee, or his family…”

The guidance statement and memo are part of the Office of Conservation’s continuing response to concerns and potential issues involving water use for drilling operations requiring hydraulic fracturing, or “fracing.”

The primary current use of that drilling technique is in the Haynesville Shale natural gas formation in northwest Louisiana. The “fracing” process involves using water to fracture a shale formation and allow for natural gas to be extracted.

“This is part of our comprehensive effort to ensure we get the best data possible on ground water use. Accurate information is the foundation of appropriate management of our ground water resources,” said state Department of Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle, who also chairs the state Ground Water Resources Commission.

“We want to make sure well owners and oil and gas operators clearly understand the rules regarding water use,” Welsh said.

Domestic well owners who fail to properly notify the Office of Conservation prior to using ground water from a domestic well for non-domestic purposes may face a compliance order and civil penalties from the state.

“State laws on ground water use are designed to protect the integrity and availability of our drinking water. We believe that informing the public on the proper use of water from domestic wells is important in serving that vital mission,” said Patrick Credeur, executive director of the Louisiana Rural Water Association.

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