From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
“Produced water can be used, but it depends on whether it’s tributary or nontributary,” said Kevin Rein, assistant state engineer. “If the water is nontributary, it could be put to use on-site for fracking, well construction or dust suppression. If it is tributary, an augmentation plan is required.”
State Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, says she plans to introduce legislation to determine water quantity and quality impacts of oil and gas exploration. The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission does not track the industry’s water use, but estimates it to be less than 1 percent of total water use.
Water is used for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of deep wells and varies from 1 million to 8 million gallons of one-time use per well. Rein said the Division of Water Resources is working on estimates of how much water is actually used in mining operations, but said the number is “relatively minuscule” compared to agricultural, urban or other industrial totals.
The use of water produced in mining operations has led to controversy in Colorado. A 2009 Colorado Supreme Court decision in Vance v. Wolfe determined that water used in mining is a beneficial use. In the past, mining companies treated it as a waste product. Since the 2009 ruling, a well permit is needed if water produced during drilling is tributary to surface waterways. That means water from other water rights must be obtained for augmentation.
More 2012 Colorado legislation coverage here.