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 2017 we used approximately 1.61 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, brought to the surface with oil and gas during production, 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 reused in additional completion operations. 

Many of our recycling efforts include operating areas prone to drought cycles. If a drought occurs, we adjust our operations accordingly with emphasis on water recycling. 


We are an active participant in the Energy Water Initiative (EWI) and several regional committees to further improve our water stewardship efforts. Through EWI, we gather 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 actively participates in Oklahoma’s Water for 2060 Produced Water Working Group. This task force studies the feasibility of recycling or reusing produced water as opposed to disposal well injection.   

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 well casing, three to five layers of steel and cement that reinforce the integrity of our wells. And for the lifecycle of the well, we incorporate secondary containment as a best management practice to protect the environment surrounding the site.  

Water Sampling

In certain areas including the Marcellus and Utica shales, and the Powder River Basin, state regulations require pre- and/or post-drill water quality sampling to further safeguard ground and surface water during oil and gas operations. We have a robust approach to complying with these requirements and have historically exceeded state requirements.  We also fulfill any lease obligations that require water quality sampling and conduct risk-based sampling efforts throughout all of our operating areas.

Independent, third-party consultants collect landowner water samples near our production sites, which are then analyzed by a state or nationally accredited laboratory and are subject to an extensive quality assurance process. We share analytical results with the landowner and appropriate regulatory bodies, where required, and store results in an electronic data management system for efficient reporting retrieval. In total, we have acquired approximately 41,000 water samples to increase our understanding of the water quality in the areas where we operate.

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 covers 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 potential link 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 and is funding research at Stanford University’s Center for Induced and Triggered Seismicity. The company also operates a seismograph array in northern Oklahoma and shares the data collected with Stanford and with the Oklahoma Geologic Survey.

We follow applicable state and federal laws when utilizing injection wells. Specific to Oklahoma, injection wells and completion operations are regulated by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Chesapeake respects the Commission’s regulatory authority and is complying with the Commission’s directives aimed at reducing the risk of seismicity.

We also have robust internal standards for well-siting and the safe injection and disposal of produced water.