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Estimates of water use associated with continuous oil and gas development in the Williston Basin, North Dakota and Montana, 2007–17

March 4, 2020

This study of water use associated with development of continuous oil and gas resources in the Williston Basin is intended to provide a preliminary model-based analysis of water use in major regions of production of continuous oil and gas resources in the United States. Direct, indirect, and ancillary water use associated with development of continuous oil and gas resources in the Williston Basin was estimated in North Dakota and Montana from 2007 to 2017. Water-use data were aggregated by county and year, which were the sampling units used in this analysis. Linear and quantile regression models of water use in relation to the number of oil and gas wells developed were fit for the direct, indirect, and ancillary water-use categories for each State. A 95-percent confidence interval for each parameter estimate from the linear regression models was computed as a measure of uncertainty. Additional information on uncertainty can be gained from modeling other distribution parameters, so quantile regression models of the 5th, 50th, and 95th percentiles also were fit. To assess uncertainty in the estimates from the regression models of direct, indirect, and ancillary water use, leave-one-out cross-validation was used. Model performance was evaluated with three goodness-of-fit metrics used to compare the estimates and observations of water use.

Mean annual direct and indirect water use for development of continuous oil and gas resources in North Dakota was estimated at 4,512 million gallons (Mgal) per year (Mgal/yr), with a 95-percent confidence interval of 4,021–5,152 Mgal/yr, and in Montana was estimated at 196 Mgal/yr, with a 95-percent confidence interval of 189–203 Mgal/yr. Ancillary water use (for domestic and public supply) had an estimated annual mean of 2,753 Mgal/yr in North Dakota and 396 Mgal/yr in Montana. The coefficient from the linear regression model of direct water use was 3.86 Mgal per well and hydraulic fracturing water use was 3.70 Mgal per well for North Dakota. The mean estimate of direct water use had a 95-percent confidence interval of 3.48–4.23 Mgal per well. For North Dakota, the coefficient from the linear regression model of indirect water use was 0.453 Mgal per well, with a 95-percent confidence interval of 0.415–0.492 Mgal per well. Direct and indirect water use had a mean estimate of about 4.31 Mgal per well in North Dakota. The mean estimate of ancillary water use (for domestic and public supply) in North Dakota was 2.03 Mgal per well, with a 95-percent confidence interval of 1.76–2.31 Mgal per well. For Montana, the linear regression model of hydraulic fracturing water use had a mean estimate of 2.04 Mgal per well. The 95-percent confidence interval for the mean estimate was 1.80–2.28 Mgal per well. Direct and indirect water use in Montana had a mean estimate of 2.49 Mgal per well. The mean estimate of ancillary water use (for domestic and public supply) in Montana was 2.43 Mgal per well, with a 95-percent confidence interval of 1.76–3.11 Mgal per well.