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. 

Water Sourcing and Recycling

Where possible, Chesapeake seeks to use non-potable water sources first for our operating needs. If it is necessary to utilize freshwater, our sources include private land sites, municipal water resources, 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 commitment, we adopted a companywide electronic water tracking system to more accurately monitor our water usage. 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 aims to recycle produced water and evaluates other alternatives to freshwater, such as brackish groundwater. 

Produced water, a byproduct of oil and gas 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 through the well 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 or nearby facility for treatment and testing before being reused in additional completion operations. 


A key tenet of our core values is continuous improvement, and that includes sharing and implementing best practices across our industry. In 2014 we joined the Energy Water Initiative to further improve our water stewardship efforts. The EWI, a collaborative group of industry peers, shares key learnings, technologies and best practices to improve lifecycle water use and management. Last year the group produced a series of case studies, which was shared with our peers and regulatory bodies to increase transparency around water use and energy development.  

Protecting Water Resources

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

Once we identify a site, we take additional steps to protect groundwater during all stages of our operations. For example, our site design standards include incorporating secondary containment on our sites to prevent fluids from being absorbed into soil. Also, during drilling we install well casing, three to five layers of steel and cement that reinforce the integrity of our wells.  

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 sampling to further safeguard groundwater 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 sampling and conduct risk-based sampling efforts in all our operating areas.

Independent, third-party consultants collect water samples near our 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 landowners and regulatory bodies, where required, and store results in an electronic data management system for efficient reporting retrieval. In total, we have acquired approximately 40,000 water samples to increase our understanding of the water quality in the areas where we operate.


Seismicity, and its potential link to injection wells, 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 10-station seismograph array and shares the data collected with Stanford and with the Oklahoma Geologic Survey.

The standards for the injection of produced water are set by the U.S. EPA and state environmental regulatory agencies under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Wherever we operate, we follow all applicable laws when utilizing injection wells. 

Concerns over seismicity have become especially prevalent in Oklahoma. Injection wells in Oklahoma are regulated by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. The Commission has issued a number of directives aimed at reducing the risk of seismicity. Chesapeake respects the Commission’s regulatory authority and is complying with the Commission’s directives.