American Water has developed a twelve lesson water education kit for young people


Here’s their pitch from their website:

A lot goes into providing high-quality and reliable water and wastewater services around the clock. Behind the scenes, scientists, environmentalists, and water quality experts are working hard to make sure our customers have the high-quality water they need and expect.

Learning about water – where it comes from, how it is treated and delivered, and what is required to keep it flowing – is key to understanding the value of water and the expert level of service that American Water customers receive every day.

We invite you to download and use our Education Toolkit in classrooms, at community events or even in your own home. The toolkit consists of 12 lesson plans to help teach young people about the importance of water in their lives and how to conserve it for future generations.

Teachers and parents, we’ve developed a package of information just for you. It was created specifically for educating kids about water and what goes into its treatment and delivery. It’s educational and fun.

Thanks to the American Water Twitter Feed (@amwater) for the heads up.

More education coverage here.

Did the EPA ignore their own sampling criteria and cry wolf about Pavillion Oil Field contamination?


From the Casper Star-Tribune (Jeremy Fugleberg):

The testers zipped the bottles tightly in clear plastic bags, surrounded them with ice in two small coolers, and shipped them overnight to the agency’s laboratory in Golden, Colo., for analysis.

There, the samples waited as the deadline neared for them to be accurately tested. By the time the samples were tested, the EPA-mandated hold times had come and gone.

“Maintenance of the laboratory floor” caused the hold, according to the EPA’s lab data report on the April 2011 samples.

The overdue analysis of those samples was part of the data that underpinned the EPA’s eventual conclusions, released in a draft report in early December. The agency’s key conclusion: Natural gas wells in the area, most developed using hydraulic fracturing, might have harmed groundwater.

The report was quickly slammed by the oil and gas industry but trumpeted by environmental groups. Yet the EPA’s own data — including details not mentioned in the draft report — indicates the agency’s conclusions are partially based on improperly analyzed samples from six private drinking-water wells and two EPA-drilled deep monitoring wells in Pavillion.

The EPA also found contamination in pure water control samples, didn’t purge the test wells properly before gathering samples and didn’t mention in its report whether it tested water carried by a truck used in well drilling, say officials with the Wyoming Water Development Commission who, because of their expertise on water wells, reviewed the EPA’s publicly available information…

“EPA’s analysis is that the best explanation for the chemical signature seen in monitoring wells is the release of hydraulic fracturing fluids into the aquifer above the production zone,” said EPA spokesman Rich Mylott in an email. “Hydraulic fracturing fluids were injected directly into the deeper part of the aquifer. The synthetic substances found in monitoring wells are known to be used in hydraulic fracturing fluids, are not naturally occurring, and many of them were used in the Pavillion field.”

Substances found in the samples from the monitoring wells — including acetone, tert-butyl alcohol, trimethylbenzenes and glycols — weren’t from materials used by the EPA in constructing the wells, Mylott said.

Here’s a guest column, penned by Donovan Schafer (The Independence Institute), that is running in the Summit Daily News. From the article:

The Wyoming report found contamination in two deep monitoring wells that were drilled specifically to detect contamination. But in addition to these wells, the EPA tested 51 domestic wells (the wells people actually use), and not a single one of these wells showed any signs of contamination that could be linked to fracking.

Strangely, this information is not made clear in the EPA report. Instead, it is buried in the lab data. There are literally thousands of “ND” (Not Detected) entries for every imaginable compound and chemical that the EPA thought it could link to fracking. Yet these results, for all 51 domestic wells, are not discussed or presented anywhere in the EPA’s sensation-seeking report.

While the deep monitoring wells do appear to link fracking to groundwater contamination, they do not link fracking to drinking water contamination. It’s misleading when the EPA report says that an Underground Source of Drinking Water (“USDW”) was contaminated, because the EPA’s definition of USDWs is so ambiguous that the entire 3,000-foot-thick Wind River Formation (the one beneath Pavillion) is lumped into a single USDW, even though it has more than 30 separate freshwater zones…

Geologically speaking, the ground beneath Pavillion is a mess. Most regions have multiple clay-rich layers that spread uniformly throughout the area and act as impenetrable barriers between fracking and groundwater. Pavillion has none of these layers, and therefore represents a worst case scenario by which we can test the safety of fracking. As the 51 domestic wells show, fracking does indeed pass this test.

Meanwhile, Sara Castellanos catches us up on opposition to hydraulic fracturing in Aurora in this article from The Aurora Sentinel. Here’s an excerpt:

With a Texas oil company planning to drill several dozen wells near some swank subdivisions on Aurora’s northeastern edge, local lawmakers have organized town hall meetings to educate the public about what they should expect…

Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp. applied in August to drill up to 36 wells in a 30-square-mile patch of land near Aurora’s eastern edge. The area stretches from Gun Club Road east to Watkins Road and from East Yale Avenue north to East Colfax Avenue. Anadarko also hopes to drill as many as 24 other wells around rural Arapahoe County. Arapahoe County is set to finalize its own regulations concerning oil and gas drilling – which mostly mirror state laws – on Jan. 3.

More coverage from the Mountain Valley News (Lindy J. Gwinn)

Brad Robinson, President of Gunnison Energy Corporation said, “I have been a proponent of disclosing frac ingredients for years. GEC has listed, or at least described them, on our website for years as well.”

He went on to say, “Most folks don’t understand the industry is really made up of several different industries. The companies like GEC who drill, complete and then produce oil and gas wells generally favor disclosure. However, the service companies like Halliburton, Calfrack, BJ, and Baker Hughes etcetera, who provide drilling mud, frac fluids, and completion services generally do not like to disclose. This is because they spend millions of dollars developing new drilling techniques and ingredients and don’t want to give competitors information on their new products so that other companies can copy them.”

According to Lee Fyock, also from GEC, “The general feeling when we were all at the table talking about these new fracing regulations is that we understand people’s concerns and want to find a way to relieve those concerns. Producers are glad to have the disclosure in place.”

Here’s a twenty minute radio show about Front Range hydraulic fracturing from Marketplace Sustainability (Kirk Siegler).

Finally, here’s a report from Mireya Navarro writing for The New York Times. From the article:

But conventional vertical and horizontal drilling has its safety issues as well. In Chemung County, where gas companies have been drilling in the Trenton Black River rock formation, a group of 15 residents filed a lawsuit last winter against Anschutz Exploration, a company based in Colorado, over drilling operations at two gas wells that they claim contaminated their drinking water.

The law firm shepherding that suit, filed in State Supreme Court in Elmira, N.Y., is Napoli Bern Ripka, which recently won a settlement of nearly $700 million with the City of New York and its contractors on behalf of more than 10,000 workers saying that they developed respiratory illnesses as a result of their rescue and recovery work at ground zero after 9/11. One of the lawyers, Marc J. Bern, said that the firm has cases pending over natural gas drilling operations in Pennsylvania, Colorado, West Virginia and now New York.

Mr. Bern said he doesn’t take sides in the debate over whether hydrofracking should be allowed — he just argues that “it can be done in a much better way.”

“The industry itself believes that things can be done safer, but they want to do it in the most expeditious and cheapest way and deal with the environmental costs and the contamination later,” he said.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Snowpack news: Statewide 74%, Rio Grande and Arkansas basins in the average range, South Platte basin at 88%


Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for yesterday’s Colorado snowpack map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Fort Collins plans rehab of Michigan Ditch facilities


From the City of Fort Collins (Brain Janonis) via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

During the winter 2011, record snowfall accumulated in the region. While the snowfall created plentiful water supplies for the northern Front Range, the snow’s depth and weight resulted in structural damage to reaches of the 6-mile Michigan Ditch. Two projects were planned on the ditch this summer, but heavy snow accumulation delayed the start of construction. Snow melted slowly this spring and the condition of the pipe was difficult to evaluate until mid-summer.

Once our city staff, engineers and consultants completed their evaluation, crews moved quickly to stabilize the damaged structure before late summer snow began to fall again.

Several phases of repair and stabilization will be required to prevent or minimize future damage and protect the Michigan Ditch. More work will be completed in the next few years, and city water customers will benefit from the use of this asset for decades to come.

More Cache la Poudre River coverage here and here.

La Luz de Nuevo México: Rituals of Seasonal Change in Acequia Communities


Here’s a look at acequia communities’ winter traditions from David F. Garcia writing for the New Mexico Acequia Association. Acequia communities in the San Luis Valley here in Colorado hold the most senior water rights in the state. Here’s a excerpt:

The solstice, though not specifically celebrated in these communities, marks the time when the earth’s northern hemisphere is tilted furthest away from the sun. Following this day the earth’s tilt reverses and the hours of the day grow longer until the next summer solstice. In many land based communities in the northern hemisphere these natural occurrences coincide with important celebrations during last month of the calendar year.

Though many Acequias lay dormant during the winter months it is a time of planning and observation of the natural world. The mountain snows are among the most scrutinized phenomena on this high desert landscape. In addition, it is an important time for Acequias communities to process many ritual foods that were harvested during the year. Among the most commonly prepared indigenous foods during this time of year are tamales, pozole, and chile con carne. In addition there are many fine desserts such as pastelitos de calabaza, molletes, and bizcochitos. The preparation and consumption of these foods are enmeshed in the ritual significance of religious observances.

Low numbers for aquatic life prompts the CWQCD to designate the Blue River for monitoring and evaluation


Here’s a report from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

The sampling results prompted the Colorado Water Quality Control Division to propose listing the Blue River as impaired under a relatively new rule that sets thresholds for aquatic life use…

Water experts from Summit County and other jurisdictions challenged the initial move to list the Blue River and other stream segments as impaired, claiming that the state-set thresholds — adopted after 10 years of study — may not be applicable in rivers below reservoirs.

For example, Aurora officials questioned whether or not the data collected below a dam should be evaluated as being representative of an entire stream segment. They suggested that changes in natural temperature alterations, low dissolved oxygen, sediment, nutrient composition and hydraulic modifications may alter the biological community below reservoirs.

More Blue River coverage here and here.