The Midland Oilfield is located in the heart of the Texas Gulf Coast area, on the southern edge of the Fort Worth/Plano Metropolitan Statistical Area (MPSA). Since the mid-twentieth century, this area has consistently ranked among one of the top five oil-producing areas in the United States. Despite this, in recent years Midland’s oil production has declined by more than four percent annually, as well’s age and the reservoir volume dwindles.
In the mid-twentieth century, Midland’s oil production was supported by a robust oil-refining industry, based primarily in Galveston and Odessa. Over the past several decades, however, petroleum production from these wells has fallen significantly due to an increasing demand for domestic energy, declining crude oil prices, and a decrease in petroleum production in Europe. The Midland area’s reliance on foreign crude oil has also made it more vulnerable to the effects of environmental change, with widespread flooding in Odessa during the spring and summer months and in Galveston during the fall and winter months, which caused significant damage to crops and homes.
While a large percentage of Midland’s oilfield production is due to oil refineries and petroleum exploration, many Midland homeowners are facing significant water resource issues. As oil and natural gas prices continue to rise, oil-rich homeowners in the Midland oilfield area will be required to pay more for their water, as wells deplete over time and the water table in the region declines.
Many Midland oilfield communities depend on the Edwards Aquifer as their primary water source. During heavy rainfall events, this groundwater can become contaminated with salts, sediment, or other chemicals, which can negatively impact water quality and result in a contaminated drinking water supply. Even when there is no flooding, the Edwards Aquifer can be depleted by pumping, which depletes its freshwater reserves, causing residents in some areas to experience water shortages. Unfortunately, most oil-producing wells require periodic pumping to keep water levels at high or acceptable levels for efficient production.
Because Odessa is located in a relatively dry climate, the groundwater is not exposed to any atmospheric pressure changes, making it easier to pump. It is also less likely to undergo natural evaporation, which can increase the risk of contamination from salt content or other contaminants. With so little environmental exposure to external pressure, the water in the Midland area remains contaminated with contaminants for a longer period of time.
In Odessa, an increased need to pump water to support oil production has placed residents and industries in close contact with underground sources of freshwater. Although many Odessa wells have sufficient water supply to meet their daily needs, larger cities such as Odessa TX are becoming more reliant on the city’s water supply. Many water treatment facilities in Dallas and Fort Worth TX have recently begun offering water conservation programs and services to help mitigate the impact of population growth in the city.
There are many sources of clean and natural freshwater in the Odessa area, including springs and rivers that provide an abundance of naturally occurring, safe drinking water, which is free from contaminants. While Odessa’s natural water resources are often replenished quickly, there are times that the water supply becomes depleted due to drought conditions. Odessa’s groundwater water conservation efforts, including rain barrels and rain barrel recycling, can make it possible to maintain sufficient water supplies to meet the city’s water needs while limiting the negative impact on the groundwater.
Oilfield areas are not the only places in the Odessa Texas area that may be susceptible to future water shortages and water shortage. Whether the area you live in is experiencing drought or flood, or if it is experiencing an increase in population, it is important to protect your community’s groundwater supplies through rain barrel collection and conservation programs, and consider the long-term impact on your family’s health and quality of life.