Responsible Water Management

Water is essential for energy development, making our commitment to water sourcing and stewardship critical to future operations. We use water during two key operational stages — drilling and completions — and our water use varies according to the geology and the specific drilling and completion plans engineered for each well. In 2018, we used approximately 85.68 million barrels of water, or 1.27 gallons of water for every 1 mmbtu of energy we anticipate producing over the life of the well. 


Water Sourcing and Recycling

Where possible, Chesapeake first seeks to use non-potable water sources for our drilling and completions needs. If non-potable water is not available, we utilize freshwater supplied by private landowners, municipalities, regional water districts and river authorities. We work closely with federal, state and local agencies to evaluate and permit our freshwater usage. 

Consistent with this approach, we adopted a companywide electronic water tracking system to more accurately monitor our water usage and transportation. Using this system, our field teams are better equipped to track vendor handling of water resources and recognize cost efficiencies. 

Another way we practice water stewardship is through our Aqua Renew® initiative, a program that recycles produced water and evaluates other alternatives to freshwater, such as brackish groundwater. Produced water contains various salts, sand and silt due to its presence in hydrocarbon-bearing formations for millions of years. The water travels from the producing formation up the wellbore to the surface during completion and production operations, where it is collected. Through the Aqua Renew® initiative, produced water is treated on-site or trucked to a central location for treatment and testing before being used in additional completion operations. 


We are a founding member and an active participant in the Energy Water Initiative (EWI) − and several regional water committees − to further improve our water stewardship efforts. Through EWI, we collaborate with our peers to share key learnings, innovations and best practices to improve lifecycle water use and management. One of the group's outcomes was the publication of a series of case studies, shared with peers and regulatory bodies to increase transparency around water use and energy development.

Chesapeake also participates in Oklahoma’s Water for 2060 Produced Water Working Group. Recently, this task force studied the feasibility of recycling or reusing produced water as opposed to disposal well injection.   

Water Scarcity

Some of our operating areas, such as the Eagle Ford Shale, the Mid-Continent and the Powder River Basin, periodically experience varying levels of drought or water scarcity. We regularly monitor drought level indications as published and updated quarterly by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and are evaluating other tools such as the World Risk Institute’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas to help forecast these situations. Through our Aqua Renew® initiative, we continually evaluate new hydraulic fracturing chemistries and water treatment technologies which would allow us to substitute the use of produced water for some volume of freshwater in our drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations in those areas experiencing water scarcity.  

Protecting Water Resources

Beyond water conservation, protecting ground and surface water is integrated within our daily operations. Our site assessment program creates consistent procedures to protect water and other environmental receptors when constructing new locations or conducting maintenance to existing locations. 

Once we identify the location to build a production facility, we take additional steps to protect ground and surface water during our operations. For example, during drilling we install three to five layers of steel well casing and cement that reinforce the integrity of our wells. And for the lifecycle of the well, we incorporate secondary containment as a company standard to protect the environment surrounding the site.  

Water Sampling

Chesapeake has developed a robust approach to groundwater protection, including pre- and/or post-drill water quality sampling, in our operating areas. We comply with state regulations and lease obligations that require sampling, and we conduct risk-based sampling to further safeguard ground and surface water during operations.

Independent, third-party consultants collect landowner water samples near our production sites, which are then analyzed by a state or nationally accredited laboratory. We test water supplies for a predefined set of parameters, including general water quality indicators, biological parameters, metals, dissolved gases and petroleum constituents. Landowners receive an analytical data package which includes fact sheets, links to appropriate state environmental agency websites and the National Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Water Systems Council WellCare Hotline. 

In total, we have acquired more than 41,000 water samples to increase our understanding of the water quality in the areas where we operate. Of our five operating areas, we sample water sources at least 6 months prior to drilling activities in the Marcellus Shale and the Powder River Basin. In the Mid-Continent, Eagle Ford, and Haynesville, we use a risk-based approach to inform pre-drill water sampling with risk analysis performed at least three months prior to the commencement of drilling operations. Post-drill water sampling is not required in most of our operating areas, except for the Powder River Basin, in which we adhere to state regulations requiring subsequent water testing 12 to 24 months after setting production casing, with follow-up samples taken again 36 to 48 months after the original test. Post-drill sampling also occurs based on lease requirements or risk-based need in all our operating areas.

Once samples are studied and shared with the landowner and regulatory bodies, where required, we store the results in an electronic data management system for efficient reporting retrieval. This extensive water quality database, coupled with our operational knowledge, aids our decision making on where and when to sample in the future. Recognizing that natural occurrences can affect water quality, we assess the need to reanalyze groundwater if water quality data is more than five years old. 

In 2017, Chesapeake was honored as an industry leader in baseline water testing. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) awarded the company with its “Corporate Award for Excellence in Environmental Stewardship” for conducting a thorough baseline study to characterize dissolved methane in relation to geology, topography, groundwater circulation and water chemistries.

The study covered areas of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio and was the largest of its kind. Study findings were published in Environmental Geosciences, a peer-reviewed journal, and Chesapeake provided the baseline data to state regulatory agencies.



Seismicity, and its correlation in certain locations to injection wells and completion activities, is the topic of a number of ongoing scientific studies. Chesapeake supports science-based research on this subject, including funding research at Stanford University’s Center for Induced and Triggered Seismicity to both study the potential processes that may induce seismicity and to develop a framework for risk assessment and management.

To further support research on this issue, Chesapeake has shared the company's operational seismic data with Stanford and the Oklahoma Geologic Survey. The Oklahoma Geological Survey is using this research to more accurately depict faulting in the geological substrate, and to build maps to better educate industry about potential induced seismicity concerns.

We follow applicable federal laws when utilizing injection wells, as well as state regulations specific to each of our operating areas. This is in addition to our robust internal standards for well-siting and the safe injection and disposal of produced water.