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Forum staff reports, Published August 10 2013

Watering an oil well vs. irrigating a field

Drilling an oil well requires a lot of water, but the amount of water needed to “frack” a well to free oil from rocks is a relative drop in the bucket compared to a center-pivot irrigation system.

On average, it takes almost 7-acre feet, or 2.2 million gallons, for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” an oil well in North Dakota’s Bakken Formation, according to state figures.

By contrast, the average center-pivot irrigation unit covers 135 acres, and requires between 100- and 135-acre feet of water per year; 100-acre feet, the amount of water that would cover 100-acres to a depth of one foot, is almost 32.6 million gallons, according to state figures.

Water used for irrigation remains in the environment, but water contaminated by fracking chemicals ultimately must be disposed of deep underground.

Source: North Dakota State Water Commission