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How Much Water Does Frac Sand Mining Use?

water faucet in dry desert

Project Summary 

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) a well requires sand and water—water to over-pressure the formation to its breaking point and sand to prop the resulting array of fractures open once the pressure is released. However, the mining of sand for fracking also requires water, and more and more sand is being mined in Texas locally to major oil and gas plays.

Study area located in Andrews, Crane, Ector, Loving, Ward and Winkler counties.The Meadows Center investigated the potential effects of frac sand facilities on the groundwater resources in the Monahans-Mescalero Sand Ecosystem in Andrews, Crane, Ector, Gaines, Ward, and Winkler counties in West Texas (study area map on the right).

Limited local information suggests that frac sand facilities in the study area consume between 60 and 250 gallons of water per ton—the exact amount depending on how sand is transported, how clean the sand is and the water efficiency of a facility. And with frac sand facilities in the study area having an annual capacity of 56.8 million tons, a substantial amount of water might be pumped from local aquifers. Numerical modeling suggests that aquifer levels can be expected to decline locally in the Pecos Valley Aquifer and regionally in the Dockum Aquifer.


Project Lead

robert mace

Robert Mace, Ph.D., P.G.

Executive Director & Chief Water Policy Officer
Professor of Practice, Department of Geography
(512) 245-6021
Faculty Profile


This study was funded by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.