New USFS ski area permit requirements are designed to keep water rights with the land at ski areas

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

At issue is a water-rights clause in the standard ski area permit that specifies who owns the water flowing down from public national forest system lands both within and outside ski area boundaries. The current language has been in place since 2004 and the ski industry says it’s been working well. Under the 2004 clause, ski areas exercise almost absolute control over all water rights associated with ski area operations — to the point that a resort could potentially sell at least some of the water rights, potentially leaving a future ski area permittee high and dry…

The agency is seeking to sustain resorts operating under permit for the long-term by ensuring that the water rights stay with the ski area even if there is a change in ownership or some other unforeseen circumstance, according to Jim Bedwell, director of the agency’s recreation and heritage resources programs. Bedwell said the agency recognizes that the value of ski areas is tied at least in part to the associated water rights. “If there’s a change of ownership, the buyers will know they have continued ownership of the water rights, They can’t be parted out,” he said.

More water law coverage here.

2012 Colorado legislation: State Representative Marsha Looper plans to introduce legislation to more accurately account for oil and gas exploration and production water needs

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The amount of water required per oil well can vary from 1 million to 8 million gallons, depending on where the well is. That’s a one-time use over the life of the well. In a vertical well, fracking may occur only once. In a horizontal well, it can be done up to 40 times. “The most we’ve seen in Colorado is a dozen,” Kerr said.

Of more concern are the chemicals used in fracking, which can affect water quality. About half of the drillers voluntarily provide the state with information about which chemicals are being used. Next month, the commission will have rule-making hearings that include a requirement to divulge the chemicals used.

The state already requires concrete casing of oil wells to a depth of 50 feet below the deepest aquifer. The Niobrara is 8,000 feet under the Denver Basin. Water wells in the area are 500 to 2,000 feet deep. State rules also require isolating the fracking zones to prevent migration of chemicals into water supplies.

State Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, plans to introduce legislation that would require a more complete state accounting of the water needs of oil and gas drilling in the state.

More 2012 Colorado legislation coverage here.

New Colorado Geological Survey study identifies geology as culprit for poor water quality in some headwaters streams

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From the Associated Press (Catharine Tsai) via The Denver Post:

In southern Colorado, the headwater areas included the Silverton and Lake City areas, the Platoro-Summitville area, the East Trout area in Mineral County, the Kite Lake area in Hinsdale County, and the Rico and La Plata mountains. They also included the Ruby Range area encompassing Mount Emmons by Crested Butte, the Grizzly Peak area south of Aspen and Leadville, the Red Amphitheatre area near the Climax mine, Twelvemile Creek and the Montezuma stock area. The Rabbit Ears and Never Summer range areas in northern Colorado also were included.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Researchers found rocks in these areas were altered by intensely hot water during the volcanic activity during Colorado’s geologic past. Some minerals were dissolved, while metal-sulfide minerals like pyrite (fool’s gold) were deposited. When the rocks were exposed at the surface, they interacted with oxygen to form iron oxide minerals, like a rusted car. The striking yellow, orange and red colors that can inspire awe also contribute to acid rock drainage, and the process has continued for millions of years.

By determining the natural processes, the state hopes to be able to determine background water quality to differentiate between natural effects and man-caused disturbances such as mining, said Matt Sares. “This study does not determine a cause for acid drainage in every case,” Sares said. “It identifies areas where you might not want to put in a mine or develop a domestic water supply.”[…]

“While there is increased potential, the study did not always find pollution in areas with these formations,” Sares said.

More coverage from Dale Rodebaugh writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

Acid rock drainage occurs when sulfur displaced by oxygen combines with water to produce weak sulfuric acid. The acidic water then dissolves minerals from the bedrock and often adds significant amounts of dissolved metals to streams. The geologists who did the research collected 101 water samples in the 11 headwaters areas. The project lasted four years. Funding for the study came from the Colorado Geological Survey through severance taxes derived from the production of gas, oil, coal and metallic metals.

More water pollution coverage here.