There is a perennial and long standing lack of potable and useable irrigation water in the Western United States. U.S. oil and gas operators dispose of billions of barrels of produced water per year. The coalbed methane (CBM) operations produce about 825 million barrels of low salinity produced water per year. To a large extent, CBM is produced in the Rocky Mountain States, a large portion of the western states. Some of the CBM produced water is beneficially used, but the majority of the produced water is injected into subsurface formations or used without treatment for irrigation. There is an obvious need for potable and useable irrigation water in the western states. Also, there is an obvious over supply of produced water being injected into subsurface formations or being used for harmful irrigation purposes. Having a litigious society poses a restraint on Exploration and Production (E&P) operators who consider desalinating produced water. However, that same constraint is not imposed on state governments, who could purchase the produced water, ship the water to treatment plants and sell the water as potable and useable irrigation water after treatment.

Currently, state and federal agencies are encouraging use of untreated produced water for irrigation. This use of saline water destroys soil structure, kills vegetation, and eventually will result in litigation against producers. Constructive use of CBM produced water is needed. Converting the produced water into potable and useable irrigation water is needed and could be profitable for all concerned.

Viable produced water treating/desalinization methods are available and tested. Government agencies support the concept, but have offered no financial or regulatory help. The probability of legal action against E&P Operators for perceived or suspected adverse impacts from the desalinated water is too great for the industry to sponsor treating of produced waters. Thus, the states must assume that responsibility. There is a desperate need for potable and irrigation waters in the western states. Government needs to be encouraged to take the lead.

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