Why Permian Basin frackers are using sewage to collect oil and gas

MIDLAND, Tx (BY: CHRIS ISIDORE, CNN BUSINESS) -- America's oil industry faces a number of challenges, including low oil prices, the rise of electric vehicles and proposals to limit fracking. But one of its biggest problems: The industry is running out of water.

The towns of Midland and neighboring Odessa, Texas, are now selling most of their municipal waste water to oil companies for use in their injection wells. Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD), one of the leaders in the field, agreed to spend $130 million to upgrade the waste water treatment facility of Midland, Texas, in return for the right to buy its waste water for up to 40 years. The company is using about 5 million gallons a day of municipal waste water to help it reach the up to 21 million gallons of water it uses every day.

The 21 million gallons of water Pioneer uses on a typical day would be enough to fill 42 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Lithgow said very little of the water it uses is fit for human consumption. Besides the waste water, most of the well water it uses comes from deep aquifers that produce a brackish water not suitable for drinking.