Analytical Framework to Estimate Water Use Associated with Continuous Oil and Gas Development

Scientific Investigations Report 2019-5100
Water Availability and Use Science Program
By: , and 



An analytical framework was designed to estimate water use associated with continuous oil and gas (COG) development in support of the U.S. Geological Survey Water Availability and Use Science Program. This framework was developed to better understand the relation between the production of COG resources for energy and the amount of water needed to sustain this type of energy development in the United States. The total mean undiscovered, technically recoverable volume of COG has increased, highlighting the continued need to develop approaches to better characterize water use associated with COG development.

The analytical framework can be used to estimate water use associated with COG development for three water-use components—direct, indirect, and ancillary water use—that are related to the life cycle of COG development. Direct water use is defined as water used in a wellbore to complete a well, including the water used for drilling, cementing, stimulating, and maintaining the well during production. Indirect water use is the water used at or near the well site, including water used for dust abatement, for cleaning equipment, and for crew and staff use. Ancillary water use is all other water used during the life cycle of COG development that is not categorized as direct or indirect, such as additional local or regional water use resulting from a change (for example, population) related to COG development. The analytical framework includes the data inputs, the processes involved in estimating the water-use coefficients and analyzing their uncertainties, and the outputs. The analytical framework was developed as an R script, which contains the statistical models used to estimate water-use components.

The availability of data across COG reservoirs in the United States is variable and presents challenges for estimating water use for extracting COG from their reservoirs; thus, the R script can be modified for the types of data available within a COG reservoir, the extent and resolution of data available for each water-use component, and the desired output of the water-use assessment. The script was written so that the units of the data in the script were standardized. Water-use estimates were simulated for the mean and 10th, 50th, and 90th percentiles of the data distributions. Uncertainties were quantified with confidence intervals for the estimated coefficients. Uncertainty for estimated or simulated data can be calculated with the R script by providing a range of representative values that are within the appropriate confidence intervals of the mean of the data.

Suggested Citation

Valder, J.F., McShane, R.R., Barnhart, T.B., Wheeling, S.L., Carter, J.M., Macek-Rowland, K.M., Delzer, G.C., and Thamke, J.N., 2019, Analytical framework to estimate water use associated with continuous oil and gas development: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2019–5100, 19 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Analytical Framework
  • Water-Use Coefficients and Uncertainty
  • Data and Analytical Framework Limitations
  • Summary
  • References Cited
  • Appendix. R Script
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Analytical framework to estimate water use associated with continuous oil and gas development
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2019-5100
DOI 10.3133/sir20195100
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston VA
Contributing office(s) Dakota Water Science Center
Description Report: vi, 19 p.; Appendix; Data Release
Country United States
Other Geospatial Lower 48 states
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details