Recycled Produced Water
Recycled Oilfield Produced Water Program
Cawelo Water District has been relying on produced water from oil operations for more than two decades — a reliable additional source of water that helps offset severe restrictions imposed due to the drought and environmental measures.
Kern County has a rich history in oil production, responsible for generating nearly three-quarters of California’s oil production under some of the nation’s most stringent environmental standards. Every barrel of oil produced also naturally generates approximately 15 barrels of water, called produced water.
Cawelo’s produced water is treated by oil producers, filtered and then delivered to Cawelo, where it is blended with other supplies for agricultural use. Our District has a long history of complying with the water quality standards and testing/monitoring protocols established by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board).
It’s important to note and clarify, water generated during hydraulic fracturing (also known as “fracking”) is not used for agricultural purposes – a point that has been incorrectly reported in certain publications and promoted by opponents of oil production. Cawelo does not accept, use, or deliver water generated from hydraulic fracturing.
As the use of produced water expands, the Regional Board requested additional analysis from water districts relying on produced water – requiring testing for nearly 70 additional elements in order to evaluate water quality. Cawelo proactively engaged a third-party environmental toxicologist to analyze the data submitted to the Regional Board – studying levels of organic compounds in the irrigation water.
The third-party environmental toxicologist found that detected organic compounds were well within safe drinking water standards and Cawelo’s produced water is safe for agricultural use. Initial water quality laboratory analysis reported the levels of acetone in Cawelo’s produced water were 280 times below the maximum concentration considered safe for drinking water; and the level of petroleum hydrocarbons in Cawelo’s produced water were 750 times below the maximum concentration considered safe for drinking water. What’s more, the third-party environmental toxicologist conducted preliminary crop testing and found that crops irrigated with Cawelo’s produced water had the same chemical composition as crops irrigated with other water supplies.
Cawelo is committed to working with the Regional Board and its expert panel in the next steps in this process to do its part and ensure produced water is governed within a strict regulatory framework and is a safe, reliable supply for California agriculture.