New Mexico Department of the Environment seeks comment on proposed produced water rule that would limit nearly all reuse | News Holland & Hart LLP



On November 1, 2023, the New Mexico Department of the Environment, Ground Water Quality Bureau (NMED-GWB) releases long-awaited proposed regulations regarding the reuse of produced water “unrelated to petroleum exploration, drilling, production, processing, or refining.” Did. Or gas. ” The New Mexico Produced Water Act was one of the first laws passed in the country and was passed in 2019. On November 1, 2023, new proposed rules will be enacted to regulate the reuse of produced water for purposes other than oil and gas.

The proposed regulations cover three different categories of wastewater: (1) For household use. (2) Industrial. (3) Water produced. Potential options for wastewater reuse depend on the classified water source. For example, “domestic reuse” stipulates that “after proper treatment of domestic wastewater, it can be used for various purposes such as irrigation.”

“Produced water” within the meaning of the proposed regulations is classified as both a “water contaminant” and a “water toxic substance” within the meaning of the New Mexico Water Quality Act and regulations. This significantly limits the options for reusing produced water in situations other than oil and gas production. If passed, such prohibited reuse options would include assisting New Mexico in meeting compact delivery requirements under the Pecos River Compact and augmenting the state’s depleted groundwater supplies. , and other efforts to reduce the use of precious drinking water supplies.

Importantly, the proposed regulations also impact New Mexico’s permitting regime for both surface water and groundwater.Regulations are analogous to treated Generates water in any surface water, “cave”[ies] “Certification of a federal permit proposing the discharge of treated produced water to surface waters, even if the discharge meets or exceeds the water quality standards of the receiving water body.”

The proposed regulations appear to permit the discharge of treated produced water to groundwater through an approved discharge permit (DP) and discharge plan. But the rules say:[u]until water quality standards based on scientifically defensible information are established. . . The water produced is [Water Quality Control] The committee, department, do not have Approve a DP or discharge plan that “includes the discharge of produced water.” Therefore, in practice, the proposed regulations would also prohibit the release of: treated Supply water to groundwater.

However, the proposed regulations allow for “demonstration projects” using produced water. Although these “demonstration projects” cannot under any circumstances discharge treated produced water into surface or groundwater, they are, paradoxically, still subject to the treated produced water notification and approval process through the NMED-GWB. It becomes. Generally, such notification and approval is required under the New Mexico Water Quality Act only if there is an “intent” to directly or indirectly discharge water contaminants into groundwater. Additionally, the results of such “demonstration projects” include, but are not limited to, all “research results and laboratory analyzes of water contaminants.” [ ] “Untreated and treated produced water” must be submitted to NMED-GWB without exception.

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