Routt County Planning Director Chad Phillips confirmed Wednesday that the Board of Commissioners approved plans to retain groundwater quality consultant Tom Myers, of Reno, Nev. Myers’ role will be to advise the county on requirements that will be used in the future to guide when and how energy companies drilling oil and gas wells here will be made to install test wells to detect any pollution of aquifers resulting from their activities.
Click on the thumbnail graphics for the Basin High/Low graph for the Gunnison River basin, the statewide snowpack map, and for those of you that remember the good old days of 2011, the May 24, 2011 Colorado snowpack map.
Snowpack is 7 percent of normal, which means low stream flows are in place, and temperatures are averaging about 10 degrees warmer than normal. More than half the state has been proclaimed as officially in drought, explained the Denver CBS television station.
“It’s dry and it’s not going to easily catch up,” state climatologist Nolan Doesken told the station reporter. “When you look back to 2002, we only got about one quarter of the average runoff in our major rivers and streams, and that’s the same sort of magnitude we’re looking at, and that’s down there at the level of worst of record.” Doesken said…
In January, the governor proclaimed 2012 “Year of Water.” The governor’s resolution identifies a clean and sustainable water supply as an essential element to the health and economy of Colorado and its neighboring states. U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet recently sponsored a federal resolution honoring the governor for addressing the water issue head on. But it is obvious that resolutions and proclamations won’t do much to help get through this current problem.
How much agricultural production will be limited by the water shortage, especially since much of the state’s agricultural production is irrigated, has not been addressed in recent news accounts.
Here’s a guest column written by Colorado River Basin Roundtable member, Greg Trainor, running in the Grand Junction Free Press that looks at the question. From the article:
In Northwest Colorado, where energy development is a major industry and we hear a constant buzz about oil shale (will it or won’t it take off?), the Yampa-White and Colorado Basin Roundtables determined that water demands from the energy industry must be estimated and a plan developed for where this water might come from. The roundtables commissioned an extensive study to find the answers.
The study showed that water use for oil shale has the potential to dwarf all other energy sector demands for water — but that these needs can probably be met with water from the White River Basin through existing and new reservoir projects.
The technology of a future oil shale industry is uncertain, so future water demands are also uncertain. Past industry efforts and current experimental development employ an array of above-ground and in situ (in place) technologies to extract oil from rock, and projected water use varies among these technologies. The study developed high, medium and low oil production and water use scenarios to develop a range of plausible water use estimates.
The study’s high water use estimate uses data from Dutch Shell’s in situ conversion process, which requires electrical heating and cooling. Water needs include water related to supplying electricity as well as directly in the extraction process. At a high production scenario of 1.5 million barrels/day of oil production, this scenario yields an overall estimate of 110,000 acre-feet of water use per year.
This final “high” estimate is significantly lower than the one generated in the first phase of the study. The earlier estimates assumed all energy needs for extracting oil from shale would be met by coal-fired power plants, while Phase II more realistically assumed that the industry would use gas-powered plants, which use much less water.
The study identified three water supply projects in the White River Basin that could potentially meet an annual demand of 110,000 acre feet/year. These three projects are not the only water supply option available, but do demonstrate that the water needs can be supplied from the White River, via development of junior decrees, with reasonable development costs.
Here’s the link to the Protect Colorado Water website. They are in the process of gathering signatures to get the initiatives on the fall ballot. Here’s the link to their news page.
From the website:
On April 16th, the Colorado Supreme Court approved the text of two state-wide ballot initiatives – 3 and 45 – that create “an obligation to protect the public’s interests in water” and prevent any use that would cause “irreparable harm” to water. The two initiatives, drafted by Richard Hamilton and Phil Doe, were released to the public for collecting signatures.
…the Colorado Secretary of State’s website posted that the final form for the petitions to collect signatures for Public Trust Initatives #3 and #45 have been approved. Also stated is that ballot proponents have until August 6 to collect signatures. This is a full month longer than we had originally believed. Regardless, the signature collection process may now begin…The Water Congress Board has taken a position to oppose the Public Trust Initiatives.
More 2012 Colorado November election coverage here.