Conserving water resources

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Conserving water resources
Water is an essential resource for the world’s ecosystems, human development, and life, and demand for this finite resource continues to grow. We work to understand water stress and potential impacts of our operations at the local level to better manage water resources used in our operations and help protect the health of people and the environment.
Image United Nations Sustainable Development Goals related to this content.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals related to this content.

Our priority in water stewardship is the quality and supply of freshwater in the communities and environments where we operate. Water challenges have the potential to pose business continuity and other risks, and resilient water systems are needed for our operations as we work to meet society’s evolving needs. We collaborate with our stakeholders to better understand water risks in the areas where we operate, and we consider the insights we gain in our project design and operational practices.


We strive to be a leader in safeguarding water resources while taking actions that help preserve water quality and conserve water supplies in the communities where we operate. We focus our efforts on prudently managing and monitoring the water we use, including freshwater used in our operations, wastewater treatment and discharge, and recycling produced water (i.e., water that comes to the surface during oil and gas production) to conserve freshwater consumption in industrial processes.

Through our water stewardship efforts, we seek to:

  • Help protect human health and the environment.
  • Consider local water needs when addressing operational requirements.
  • Continuously improve capabilities and performance.
  • Engage stakeholders in development of water solutions.


Our team works to minimize the potential impact of our operations, especially in areas of water stress, as defined by measuring the ratio of total water withdrawals to available renewable water supplies. We aim to integrate this understanding into operational practices and project design, which includes adding technology applications focused on water management.

Management and application

We use water in our operations, withdrawing or purchasing fresh, brackish, and saline water for upstream exploration and production, downstream refining, and chemicals production. Some of that water is treated and returned to a local water body, some is consumed in our manufacturing processes, and some is used for other purposes (e.g., employee health and hygiene). When sourcing water for operations, we look for ways to reduce the impact of withdrawal, consumption, and discharge, considering local needs and alternative sources of supply.

Assessing and managing water risk

When sourcing water for our operations, ExxonMobil identifies and manages risks related to supply and quality. Water scarcity poses several potential risks for our industry and others, including increased competition for water resources, reduced production or business interruption, and increased costs.

We use a combination of tools to assess water risks and scarcity, including the World Resources Institute AqueductTM Water Risk Atlas (WRI water risk tool) and local assessments. We estimate that approximately 9% of the freshwater volume that we withdraw for our operating sites and projects is from areas that are water stressed, based on analysis using the WRI water risk tool. Similarly, 20% of these locations are in areas that are water stressed.1

Research and operational analyses further enable the continuous improvement of the processes and technologies we use to manage water risk. Our Environmental Aspects Guide informs our efforts to identify and evaluate risks and impacts throughout the life of an asset or project, and we are currently evaluating an additional Water Aspect Assessment tool that we piloted in 2022 to bring enhanced focus on water risks in our Environmental Aspect Assessments.

We consider multiple factors in determining our approach for a given process or site, including local water availability, quality, and environmental impact and engage formally and informally with stakeholders and governments as part of this process. For selected sites in areas that are water stressed, we are working to assess actual costs, as well as potential trade-offs, such as varying operational efficiencies, increased energy use, or more concentrated waste streams.

In 2023, we worked with outside experts to begin an in-depth analysis of key operating sites in areas of potential future water stress. At these sites and others, we are developing thorough water balances to gain further clarity on our water use and identify additional opportunities to improve water stewardship. This work informs our ongoing efforts to develop comprehensive water roadmaps to reduce freshwater intake for select major operated facilities, which we anticipate will be complete by the end of 2024. We expect these roadmaps will be updated as needed.2

Strategic collaborations

We collaborate with universities, governments, and other industry members to manage risk and to study and improve water quality and treatment. Our engineers and scientists assess new technologies to help manage water use and treat wastewater streams, evaluate existing infrastructure, and develop strategies to improve our sustainability performance.

We collaborate with multiple external researchers, including:


Spotlight on the Permian Basin

In 2022, almost half of our net U.S. oil and natural gas production came from the Permian Basin. As we work to responsibly develop our assets in the region, we are working to safeguard the availability and quality of its water sources.

To minimize withdrawal from natural water resources and mitigate risks from water use in our operations, we seek to:

  • Prioritize sourcing from recycled produced water to conserve resources of fresh and brackish water.
  • Minimize “downhole” water disposal – that is, water discharged into underground formations – through technology and operational optimization.
  • Maximize opportunities to reuse produced water, leveraging our capabilities in risk management, research, and technology.
  • Support local and regional water conservation efforts, such as the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Pecos Watershed Conservation Initiative.

Implemented in 2021, our comprehensive water management roadmap for 10 years of Permian development identifies opportunities to reduce freshwater intake, as well as manage disposal, and guides our efforts to achieve industry-leading performance on water management. We expect this roadmap will be updated as needed.In 2022, we sourced more than 130 million barrels of water from recycled Permian produced water, comprising over half (64%) of our water needs for hydraulic fracturing operations. The remaining water needed came from brackish sources.

Additionally, we are increasingly using recycled produced water in our operations, including the Fayetteville and Marcellus shale gas operations. All told, we are working with industry members, technology solution providers, researchers, and regulators through collaboration, technology, and operational optimization to help improve industry water management in the Permian and beyond.


We have water management standards that establish requirements for water sourcing and wastewater treatment. These Project Environmental Standards set project requirements when a country has no water-use standards or less-stringent standards than our own expectations. ExxonMobil’s overall water management process is consistent with Ipieca’s Water Management Framework, which outlines a risk-based, continuous improvement process for water management.

Site-specific strategies

We regularly review our water consumption and look for ways to use water more efficiently. Our local water management programs are designed to address potential water-related risks and include a review of freshwater consumption rates, when relevant, to identify opportunities for improvement.

Informed by our Operations Integrity Management System (OIMS) framework and Environmental Aspects Guide, we consider the unique traits of each asset and location, including biodiversity and other environmental factors, to help us reduce overall water use and impacts to freshwater-dependent ecosystems. Tactics for managing water risks include water conservation technologies, use of alternative sources, and recycling of municipal and industrial wastewater.

At the ExxonMobil Singapore facilities, most of the fresh water used by the site is reclaimed treated wastewater, which reduces demand on local water supplies. There are multiple wastewater treatment systems across the ExxonMobil Singapore complex, including a membrane biological reactor that provides additional opportunities for water reuse on site.

At our Baytown petrochemical complex in Texas, we have launched projects and initiatives to address changes to our water supply, including investments in our infrastructure to shift sourcing from the San Jacinto River to the saltier Trinity River in support of the Houston Metro Area’s water management plans.4

Across our upstream portfolio, our well sites are designed and constructed to promote well integrity and help protect the water table. Protective measures include multiple layers of steel and cement casing to separate wells from aquifer and to keep fluids in the pipe and out of the water table. In addition, hydraulic fracturing completions are closely monitored to manage the pressures within the well in accordance with design parameters.


  1. ExxonMobil full-year 2022 performance data as of April 5, 2023, and World Resources Institute AqueductTM Water Risk Atlas accessed on November 6, 2023. For more information on the tool, visit We define “water stressed” as high, extremely high, or arid stress levels identified by this WRI tool and exclude sites that withdraw less than 0.5 MBBLS/year.
  2. Roadmaps aim to identify opportunities for selected sites, which are subject to change as a result of a number of factors, including the Company’s planning process, supportive government policy, and/or technology developments.
  3. Roadmaps aim to identify opportunities for selected sites, which are subject to change as a result of a number of factors, including the Company’s planning process, supportive government policy, and/or technology developments.
  4. Texas Water Development Board, Region H Water Planning Group, 2021 Regional Water Management Plan Volume 1 Section 11.2.4, available at

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