Windsor: Sales of water for hydraulic fracturing operations is a growing source of revenue

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

After years of selling small amounts of municipal water to construction firms, oil and gas well servicing companies started lining up in November at the [Windsor’s] fire hydrants, earning the community nearly $17,000 in millions of gallons of water sales as of March. 1…

Fracking is a thirsty process, with each Niobrara frack job using an average of 4.3 million gallons of water, or about 13 acre-feet, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. Where that water comes from and where it goes is critical because many environmentalists are sounding alarms about the amount of water being used for drilling along the Front Range because they say it poses serious future water supply problems as the energy industry continues to boom here.

But the state begs to differ. Colorado energy regulators project that roughly 16,000 acre feet of water will be used this year for fracking statewide, most of which will stay far underground without being returned to a local stream or river. Compare that to the 13.9 million acre-feet of water used for farming in Colorado each year. Or the 1.2 million acre-feet of water all the state’s cities use each year. Those figures show that fracking represents only a fraction of the state’s overall water demand, said Thom Kerr, acting director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission…

The Coloradoan asked 32 municipalities in Larimer and Weld counties to report how much bulk municipal water they sold or rented to the energy industry in 2011, including oil and gas companies and their water haulers. Of the 26 that responded, seven were able to report selling water specifically to oil and gas companies and water haulers. The rest either did not sell water to the energy industry last year or do not track what kind of companies buy their water…

Greeley, in the heart of Northern Colorado’s oil and gas patch, is another big benefactor of the industry’s thirst for water. The city made $1.6 million in 1,507 acre-feet of bulk water sales in 2011, up from $951,000 in 2010, mostly to the oil and gas industry, said Jon Monson, director of Greeley Water and Sewer…

Also reaping big benefits from selling water to the energy industry is the city of Fort Lupton in southern Weld County, where officials are using the windfall of cash to pay down $20 million in debt the city racked up from replacing its water treatment plants in the 1990s, Fort Lupton city administrator Claud Hanes said…

“They don’t understand what the cumulative impact is going to be if we put in another 100,000 wells,” said environmentalist Phillip Doe of Littleton, a former environmental compliance officer for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. If all the wells that exist today were fracked multiple times, “it’s not hard to come up with calculations that come up with Denver’s annual water use. This stuff goes underground and never comes back.”

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

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