Energy policy — oil and gas: Aspen Institute’s Environmental Forum Tuesday recap

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From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

It takes about 4 million gallons of water to develop a natural gas well using the technique known as hydraulic fracturing. And the “fracking” process, which is commonly used in Garfield County, also requires that about 6,000 gallons of undisclosed chemicals be injected into a typical well to help break up underground rock formations. Those estimates are from Marianne Lavelle, a senior editor on energy issues for National Geographic Digital Media, who spoke Tuesday at the Aspen Environment Forum.

Lavelle said about 80 percent of the water used in the fracking process stays deep underground. But the rest of the toxic watery mix comes back up to the surface and is often stored in earthen pits lined with black plastic. “It now has not only chemicals, but a lot of salt and a lot of minerals,” Lavelle said of the water, which is called “fracking water” or “produced water” in the gas industry. And Lavelle said it is a big challenge for the industry to dispose of the produced water.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Summit County, Keystone Resort and Denver Water ink agreement for snowmaking supply

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From the Summit Daily News (Julie Sutor):

The resort relies on water from the Roberts Tunnel, owned by Denver Water, to blanket its slopes in white every year through early-season snowmaking. Keystone is allowed to pump as much as 1,500 acre feet from the tunnel between Sept. 1 and March 31 each winter. Denver Water needs to make repairs on the Roberts Tunnel, which draws about 54,000 acre feet per year from Dillon Reservoir to supply municipal water to the Denver Metro Area. The tunnel is 50 years old and requires valve replacements at its east end — a project that must be performed while the tunnel is drained, thus rendering water unavailable for Keystone during construction. The repairs were originally scheduled to begin on Nov. 1 and last throughout the winter until April 4, 2011. “That would impact an entire season of Keystone’s snowmaking, which is essential to guarantee good snow by the holidays,” Summit County manager Gary Martinez said…

So Keystone and Summit County have negotiated a deal through which the resort will pay Denver Water $120,000 to postpone work on the Roberts Tunnel until Dec. 16. The delay will allow Keystone to draw water through Dec. 15. Denver Water is still planning to finish construction by April 4, 2011, in time to capture spring runoff and fill reservoirs with water for summer use. The Keystone funds will cover the added costs of completing the project on a tighter timeline. In the event that construction isn’t done by the April deadline, and Denver Water loses the opportunity to store spring runoff, both Summit County and Keystone will make up for the deficits with water from Clinton Reservoir and Dillon Reservoir for up to three years. “This is an example of the county putting our water portfolio to good use. It would be really tough for our revenue budget to have Keystone fall flat because of an inability to make snow,” Martinez said.

More Summit County coverage here and here.

NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin

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Here are Henry Reges’ notes from Tuesday’s webinar. From the notes:

Much of the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB) has only received about 50% of its normal  precipitation for the month. Areas which have seen the best precipitation are in the San Juan basin (around  the  4-­‐corners) and in the Yampa-­‐White basin. Most of the precipitation in the San Juan basin for the month fell as a result of monsoonal moisture over the past week, with some stations recording nearly an inch of rain or more. Also seeing good amounts of precipitation over the past week were the  Dolores and Gunnison basins.

U.S. Drought Monitor update

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The southwest monsoon surged into most of the Southwest, dumping 2 to 4 inches of rain on southwestern Texas, most of New Mexico, east-central Arizona, and southern Colorado, reducing or eliminating short-term dryness (D0A) and trimming away D1 where over 2 inches fell. In southern Colorado, however, even though 1 to 2.5 inches fell, it was not enough to overcome accumulated short and medium-term deficits, and D0 remained. In contrast, the monsoon has failed to reach into western and northern Arizona and southern sections of Nevada and Utah. This region doesn’t receive a lot of monsoonal rain (normally 1 to 2 inches in July), but gets enough to support the growth of summer grasses. With the lack of rain and reports of very poor pasture and range conditions, D1 was expanded across much of northern Arizona. Abnormal dryness was slightly extended into southern Utah, southern Nevada, and western Arizona. Last week’s D2 in northeastern Arizona was repositioned northwestward to better represent the area with reports of lingering long-term drought impacts and minimal summer rains (northern Navajo and northeastern Coconino counties).