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NM Produced Water Research Consortium at NMSU develops research plan for reuse of produced water

  • By Tiffany Acosta
  • 575-646-3929
  • Feb 10, 2022

New Mexico State University, in collaboration with the New Mexico Environment Department, is home to the New Mexico Produced Water Research Consortium. Established in 2019 to support NMED’s implementation of the Produced Water Act, the consortium is a trans-disciplinary public-private partnership composed of academia, state and federal agencies, national laboratories, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. 

Recently, the consortium published the Research Plan and Gap Analysis for Produced Water Reuse in New Mexico. Program Director Mike Hightower, Associate Director, Research and Technology, Pei Xu, and Fellows Jeri Sullivan Graham and Deborah Dixon wrote the plan to address the technical, economic and health and safety risks of fit-for-purpose reuse. Consortium members and the consortium’s Government Advisory Board provided valuable input throughout development of the plan.

“The produced water research plan focuses on identifying the research, development, testing and evaluation needed to enable the state of New Mexico to establish standards for the treatment and safe fit-for-purpose reuse of oil and gas wastewater for industrial and commercial applications to improve economic development and fresh water supply security and sustainability,” Hightower said.

The gap analysis describes strategic program areas and priority tasks informed by the consortium’s extensive research and technical discussions during 2020 and 2021. Additionally, readers can turn to the research plan to learn about the consortium’s organization and research approach. Objectives listed in the research plan propose methods to reduce the risks of using treated produced water while guarding the state’s socioeconomic, environmental and ecological systems.

“We are pleased to be at the very forefront of produced water research,” said NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu. “The consortium team has made great strides in the past two years to develop a comprehensive research plan that proposes ways to fill existing data gaps to help inform policy decisions. This research is critical to advancing new and innovative technologies necessary for New Mexico to ensure that produced water can be safely used for important applications outside of the oil and gas industry.”

The consortium conducts scientifically-based research to support and foster regional sustainability, which allows New Mexico to lead the country in advancing scientific and technological solutions related to the reuse of produced water.

“Since enactment of the Produced Water Act in 2019, New Mexico has made huge strides in reducing freshwater use in oil and gas production,” stated Rebecca Roose, deputy cabinet secretary at the New Mexico Environment Department. “Meanwhile, New Mexico is also on the leading edge of regional and national research into complex questions surrounding the treatment and reuse of produced water to increase drought resiliency while protecting public health and our precious natural resources. The research plan released by the New Mexico Produced Water Research Consortium clearly demonstrates how critical these scientific research and technological advancements are in order to ensure policy and regulations in New Mexico are innovative and science-based.”

Topics covered in the research plan include improved produced water quantity and quality sampling, analysis and data access; produced water pre-treatment/treatment costs, performance testing and analysis; toxicity testing standards development and risk analysis; socioeconomic, environmental and ecological cost/benefit analysis; health and safety compliance monitoring for fit-for-purpose applications; regulatory agency cooperation and collaboration; water and energy infrastructure planning and development; and public education and outreach.

To view the research plan visit