Testing the water: New CSU system monitors water quality at oil and gas sites in real time

Here’s the release:

A steady stream of data collected at oil and natural gas sites in the Denver-Julesburg Basin flows into a server at CSU, where researchers use it to analyze groundwater quality.

Complex algorithms sift through the raw data, scanning for any anomalies or sudden shifts in water composition that could indicate contamination in a groundwater well. The data is analyzed and displayed as charts and graphs on a CSU website for the public to view, updated with new field data posted every hour.

The network of monitoring stations and website are part of the Colorado Water Watch, a project spearheaded by CSU researchers to provide the public with real-time information about water quality at oil and gas sites throughout the basin that underlies northeastern Colorado and the Nebraska Panhandle.

The CSU team is led by Ken Carlson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, who believes it is the first monitoring system of its kind in the country.

“We don’t know of anyone else in the country who is collecting real-time data from groundwater wells next to oil and gas operations, evaluating potential changes with advanced anomaly detection algorithms and sharing it with the public,” Carlson said.

Water and energy

Carlson specializes in water quality research and over the years has narrowed his focus to the impacts of energy development on water. He leads the Center for Energy Water Sustainability, part of the Energy Institute at CSU.

In recent years, most of his work has centered on water and hydraulic fracturing.

Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is the practice of drilling deep wells – 6,000 to Colorado Water Watch infographic8,000 feet in the Denver-Julesburg Basin – into a layer of rock that contains oil and methane gas. A mixture of chemicals and water is injected to break up the rock and release the oil and gas that is then extracted.

Critics believe fracking is unsafe and, among other things, pollutes critical groundwater supplies.

Proponents defend the practice, saying there is no evidence hydraulic fracturing is releasing pollutants into groundwater supplies.

The topic has become increasingly controversial in Colorado and the nation.

“It’s gotten to the point people cannot have a civil conversation about it,” said Carlson. “Everyone produces studies that back up their beliefs. This could lead to confusion and some people may feel they do not have enough information to make informed decisions.”

Enter Colorado Water Watch, a real-time monitoring system to provide the public with easy-to-understand water quality information.

Gathering support

Carlson approached former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, who directs CSU’s Center for the New Energy Economy, about creating Colorado Water Watch during the 2012 Natural Gas Symposium.

Ritter liked the idea and from there, the two met with representatives from Noble Energy and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, which oversees oil and gas issues in the state.

Both Noble and the state agency agreed to support the project and serve on the steering committee along with representatives from Western Resources Advocates, a conservation group; the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission; and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association industry group.

“One thing that makes this project unique is that we involved a variety of stakeholders in the project,” Ritter said. “We have approached this with a spirit of collaboration, and that has been highly beneficial to the project.”

Science Senator. It's called science.
Science Senator. It’s called science.

Based on science

Carlson and his research team have spent the bulk of the past 18 months developing the monitoring system using off-the-shelf sensors, identifying Noble-owned or -leased sites to install their equipment, and designing algorithms to crunch data coming in from the field.

The team has published several papers related to their work in peer-reviewed journals including Environmental Science and Technology and Journal of Applied Water Science.

“We wanted this to be based on sound, proven science,” Carlson said. “We’ve spent a lot of time working on that and validating the system and our results.”

Sensors and stations

So far, the CSU team, which includes Asma Hanif, research associate, and Jihee Son, a post-doctoral student, has installed four monitoring stations as part of the proof-of-concept phase of the project.

Three are located next to active oil and gas wells throughout the Denver-Julesburg Basin. The fourth is a control site at CSU’s Agricultural Research Development and Education Center – or ARDEC – near Wellington.

Each site has a sensor running down a well that collects water data and is connected via cable to a nearby data logger.

The sensors are placed at varying depths to collect information on various water sources. Some snake 40 feet down and monitor primarily groundwater that is vulnerable to spills or other surface activity. Others, such as the Galeton station, are placed 400 feet below ground to collect data on the Laramie-Fox Hills Aquifer, a confined aquifer that could be susceptible to leaks in oil and gas well casing.

Water flows around the sensors, which send information to the data logger every five seconds. That information is then relayed to CSU’s server via a wireless connection.

The system is designed to not only monitor water quality but also act as an early detection system. If it detects an anomaly or major change, Carlson and his team are immediately alerted.

They visit the site, take a water sample and send it to an Environmental Protection Agency-certified lab to be analyzed. With that information, they can identify the source of the contamination – even if it isn’t from oil and gas development.

“The system can detect changes in quality that could be due to any activity in the watershed including oil and gas operations, agriculture, other industrial activity and even urban runoff, Carlson said.

Providing more information

Until now, most of the publicly available water quality data has come from samples taken periodically by operators or regulators.

In Colorado, for example, water samples are collected at a proposed site before a well is drilled, a month after it is in operation, and then five years later. That information is available to the public upon request but is highly technical and can be hard for people to understand.

Information provided by the Colorado Water Watch project will help fill that gap, said Mike King, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources.

“There’s a tremendous amount of suspicion about government and about oil and gas development, and we thought that bringing CSU on and participating would provide that level of objectivity that many in the public felt was lacking,” King said.

Jon Golden-Dubois, executive director of Western Resources Advocates, supports Colorado Water Watch for similar reasons.

“Our interest is ensuring that more information is available and that a larger set of data is developed so that we can better understand the impacts of oil and gas development and fracking on water quality in Colorado,” he said.

The $1.2 million project has been extended beyond the proof-of-concept phase and additional monitoring wells will be installed this fall.

Carlson also would like to add an air quality component.

“If stakeholders – primarily the public and industry – find Colorado Water Watch valuable, the system could be extended for much of the oil and gas areas in the state and maybe beyond,” he said.

From KUNC (Grace Hood):

Homeowners and landowners have long expressed concerns about how the fracking process impacts water quality. Colorado regulations require water testing with a half mile of where a well is drilled. The samples are taken before and after the activity.

But what happens if water quality changes over time?

That question is what researchers at Colorado State University have been pondering. Their demonstration project, a partnership between CSU and Noble Energy, installed monitors at four sites in the Denver-Julesberg Basin near Greeley. In 2013, they began wirelessly transmitting data from the wells to researchers who are watching for changes.

Now CSU Engineering Associate Professor Ken Carlson said the data will be available for the public to review and monitor at Colorado Water Watch. It’s a step toward greater transparency, and believed to be the first of it kind when it comes to monitoring water quality near oil and gas sites.

“This isn’t an industry effort, this isn’t an environmental-group effort, we wanted it to be balanced, and we want the public to feel like they’re getting information that wasn’t filtered by either side,” Carlson said.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

St. Vrain watershed landowner and stakeholder meeting set for Thursday #COflood

MSU: Water Resources Review Committee, October 1 #COWaterPlan

Forecast: Latest JAMSTEC surface temp anomalies for SON pretty toasty across the globe

@CityofSteamboat starts to revamp stormwater maintenance program without busting its budget — Steamboat Today

Here’s an excerpt.

A year after the city was grappling with the potentially enormous cost of improving its aging stormwater system, the city has started to revamp its stormwater maintenance program without busting its budget or assessing property owners a new fee to help cover the cost.

The city also is earning kudos as it starts to adopt the recommendations of a much-praised citizen task force that spent more than 500 volunteer hours analyzing the city’s storm water infrastructure.

“We’ve historically maintained maybe a dozen culverts per year, and typically we’re just chasing problems and complaints,” Kelly Heaney, the city’s new water resources manager, said last week as she briefed the council on the improvements. “This year with the additional resources we were able to maintain 45 culverts in less than two months.”

Steamboat City Council members liked what they heard.

The biggest changes the city has made this year include hiring Heaney, increasing the streets maintenance budget and adding two seasonal employees dedicated to drainage maintenance.

All of the stormwater improvements in 2014 cost $302,000 and included $47,000 for capital improvements, according to Public Works Director Chuck Anderson.

The total cost of the improvements this year was far less than some of the multi-million dollar options the city was presented with last year for improving its neglected stormwater system.

Early last year, a Minnesota consulting firm that was paid $180,000 to study the city’s stormwater infrastructure, which includes bridges, culverts and dams, called for the city to possibly spend more than $10 million in new capital projects to upgrade its stormwater system and help manage future flooding and problems associated with annual spring runoff.

Faced with the high cost, city officials at one point floated the idea of assessing a fee to property owners to help pay for the improvements.

Before that, city officials were bracing for recommendations carrying a price tag even higher than the $10 million.

The city assembled the stormwater task force to look over the master plan and make recommendations for how to implement and fund it.

While several other communities in Colorado have turned to new fees on property owners to pay for expensive upgrades, the task force here recommended against that option at this time.

Instead, they called on the city to add more money in the annual budget for personnel to more proactively maintain the system.

More stormwater coverage here.

USBR: Join us Sat., Sept. 27 to celebrate 50 years of power generation at Glen Canyon Dam! #ColoradoRiver

The origins of Union Colony and utopian socialism — The Greeley Tribune

Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water
Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water

From The Greeley Tribune (Sarah Arnusch):

Nathan Meeker was no stranger to the utopian society model when he issued “The Call” in The New York Tribune in December 1869.

He and his wife, Arvilla, had lived two years at the Trumbull Phalanx in Braceville, Ohio, which was based on the philosophical principles of Francois Fourier. These principles included the belief that everyone is entitled to a minimum income which would allow for a comfortable living, that prosperity is possible only through collective production, that every woman should be enabled to become economically independent, and that the unifying bond of community would be free, elective love, therefore abolishing the institution of monogamous marriage.

The Trumbull Phalanx, like many others established in the 1840s, was along a stream with fertile land for agriculture. The Phalanx was a self-sustaining commune where all the needs of the inhabitants were met within the structure of the colony itself. They grew their own food, cared for the children, had a library and other buildings and dwellings for the benefit of the members. The Meeker family lived at the Phalanx for several years, and Arvilla gave birth to their first born child, Ralph, while living there. Though Meeker saw the benefits to utopian living, there were some aspects of Fourier’s philosophy he just could not accept — namely free love and the rejection of monogamous marriage.

However, Meeker still believed there were some merits to the socialist utopian lifestyle. When he issued “The Call” he slightly modified Fourier’s ideas by placing a strong emphasis on the family structure, but he held on to many of Fourier’s other economic principles. For example, Fourier believed in the ownership of private property but also saw the need for a society to have common facilities to benefit the community. Meeker planned for the Union Colony to be divided into lots in town and outside of town. Each family would be apportioned a section outside of town for farming. Lots in town would be auctioned off, and the proceeds would be used to build a church, school and library. Meeker even envisioned a communal laundry and bakery for the Union Colony, but this idea never came to fruition.

Religion also played an important role in the colony. Unlike his contemporaries, Marx and Engels, Fourier believed that religion could actually be a benefit to society, and he encouraged the practice of organized religion. In “The Call” Meeker stressed the importance of family and religion by explaining, “In particular, should moral and religious sentiments prevail; for without these qualities, man is nothing.” At the same time, tolerance and liberality should also prevail. “One thing more is equally important: happiness, wealth and the glory of the state spring from the family, and it should be an aim and a high ambition to preserve the family …”

The Union Colony that Meeker eventually established attracted hard-working, temperate, family oriented people. The colony survived and prospered because it placed emphasis on working together for the benefit of all, particularly by supporting public education and culture, but still allowed for exceptionally hard working and innovative people to become prosperous in their own right.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

Tweaked Hermosa Creek Bill Raises Conservationists’ Ire — the Watch


From the Watch (Samantha Wright):

For over a year, the proposed Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act has been celebrated as a beacon of bipartisanship, collaboration and consensus in an otherwise bleak landscape of mired Wilderness legislation.

The bill, HR 1839, has enjoyed strong bipartisan and bicameral support from its Colorado sponsors, Rep. Scott Tipton and Sen. Michael Bennet and their colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

But the version approved by the House Natural Resource Committee late last week contained amendments inserted by Tipton at the eleventh hour that weaken some of the bill’s environmental protections, several stakeholders have alleged.

These stakeholders, who played a key role in developing the original grassroots legislation, complained they had less than two days to respond to the amendments before the bill went into markup last Thursday.

The original bill “was the product of years of hard work and consensus—and it had broad, bipartisan support among local stakeholders, from sportsmen’s and conservation groups to local businesses and county officials,” said Ty Churchwell, Hermosa coordinator for Trout Unlimited, in a release last week. “The amended bill raised a number of questions about whether the original consensus was still being honored.”

One of the main points of contention, Churchwell said, is the 108,000-acre Watershed Protection Area, concerned with protecting the health of the Hermosa Creek watershed and safeguarding the purity of its water, native trout fishery and recreational values.

Trout Unlimited argued that the language pertaining to this provision had been fuzzied in the amended version of the bill, and called for clarity “before the bill progresses further in Congress.”

Trout Unlimited also asserted that the new version of the bill has inserted a “broader management approach” for a Special Management Area designated within the bill, which could weaken environmental protections while allowing expanded logging and mining.

Conservation Colorado Executive Director Pete Maysmith released a more strongly worded statement, asserting that the “deeply flawed” substitute amendment introduced by Congressman Tipton “threatens the future of this legislation and the future of Hermosa Creek.”

“The 11th hour language introduced in the substitute amendment fundamentally rewrites the legislation to suit narrow ideological tastes and undermines years of negotiations between diverse stakeholders in southwest Colorado and jeopardizes the future of the bill,” he stated. “We call on Congress to set aside DC politics and instead advance common sense protections for this stunning area, as agreed upon by diverse local stakeholders.”

Officials from both San Juan and La Plata Counties also objected to the changes Tipton proposed in his amendments.

San Juan County Commissioner Scott Fetchenhier told the Durango Herald last week that text was added to allow future “roads and transmission lines going across wilderness areas,” which goes against what the local stakeholders had agreed upon.

Tipton’s office put a different spin on the bill, stressing that it “seeks to protect the Hermosa Creek Watershed as well as protect multiple use of the land.”

One major impetus behind the amendments, his office explained, was to protect the rights of snowmobilers to recreate on a small but popular portion of the Molas Lake trail system groomed by the Silverton Snowmobile Club that passes through the West Needles Contiguous Wilderness Study Area.

A few years ago, the Bureau of Land Management inherited management of the area from the U.S. Forest Service, and determined that it should be closed to motorized travel.

When local officials started making noise about the negative impact the closure could have on Silverton’s wintertime economy, Colorado lawmakers joined forces in 2013 to tack a provision onto the pending Hermosa Creek bill, which would preserve full, historic snowmobile access in the Molas Lake area.

Tipton’s amendment achieves this by designating a part of the adjacent wilderness area as a motorized area, thus thwarting the BLM’s efforts to restrict snowmobile access in the winter.

The Colorado Snowmobile Association praised the amended bill and pledged its full support of Tipton’s efforts.

Tipton also asserted that his amendments did not erode the bill’s conservation priorities. “All of the major wilderness and conservation provisions remain intact – in fact, the acreage of protected areas actually increased by 499,” he said, mainly by tacking on extra acreage in the Molas Pass area.

Altogether, the amended bill designates 37,735 acres of wilderness (an increase of 499 acres from the original version), and 68,289 acres under special management protections.

Last week’s committee markup in the House was only one step on the bill’s long passage that may or may not end in eventual enactment, with much depending on how companion legislation in the Senate may fare. Bennet’s version of the bill (which he first introduced in 2011) still awaits a committee hearing.

Here’s a release from Colorado Trout Unlimited (Ty Churchwell/Keith Curley):

Trout Unlimited and other local stakeholders today expressed concern with a substitute amendment released on Tuesday, Sept. 16, that alters key provisions of the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act of 2014.

The bill is slated for markup in the House Natural Resources Committee today, Sept. 18. The original bill, H.R. 1839, introduced in May 2013, was the product of years of collaboration and consensus among numerous stakeholder groups in Colorado—and the bill enjoyed strong bipartisan support from its Colorado sponsors, Rep. Scott Tipton and Sen. Michael Bennet. The bill was widely seen as noncontroversial, and a model of collaboration.

Then, two days before this week’s markup—without input from stakeholders—the bill was amended to alter key habitat protections.

“The version of the bill that went into committee was the product of years of hard work and consensus—and it had broad, bipartisan support among local stakeholders, from sportsmen’s and conservation groups to local businesses and county officials,” said Ty Churchwell, Hermosa coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “The amended bill raised a number of questions about whether the original consensus was still being honored.”

One of those questions concerns the 108,000-acre Watershed Protection Area to maintain the health of the Hermosa Creek watershed, safeguarding the purity of its water, its native trout fishery, and its recreational values (§4 of H.R. 1839). That provision was altered by committee to say the land “may be called” the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Area. “In the last 48 hours I have heard varying interpretations of the Watershed Protection Area language,” said Churchwell. “I hope there will be an opportunity to get clarity before the bill progresses further in Congress.”

The original bill also established a Special Management Area to be managed for conservation, protection and enhancement of watershed, cultural, recreational, and other values, and for the protection of the Colorado River cutthroat trout fishery. The new version of the bill released Tuesday removes that language and replaces it with a broader management approach.

“It takes hard work to reach consensus on a bill like this,” said Tim Brass, Southern Rockies coordinator of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “Congress should make sure that the goal of the original bill is honored as it moves toward becoming law.”

“The Hermosa Creek proposal is the product of Westerners rolling up their sleeves and finding common ground,” said Joel Webster, director of western public lands for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Sportsmen ask that the House Natural Resources Committee advance legislation that honors the intent of the original stakeholder proposal.”

Trout Unlimited and other stakeholders called on Congress to ensure that the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act is true to the proposal put together over three years by a broad stakeholder process that was open, inclusive and transparent.

“Rep. Tipton has been a strong leader on the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act since he introduced the bill early last year,” said Churchwell. “We are talking with his office and gaining a better understanding of the changes, but we have remaining concerns with the language in Tuesday’s amendment. We look forward to working with Rep. Tipton and others in our congressional delegation as the bill moves through the legislative process to ensure that it fully reflects the stakeholder agreements.”

From The Durango Herald (Iulia Gheorghiu):

The original bill had the support of La Plata and San Juan counties, and had been carefully crafted by people who live there.

“People are very disturbed that this process, which was designed locally and has very strong local consensus with support from Congressman Tipton, has become a very different piece of legislation,” said Jimbo Buickerood, the public-lands coordinator at San Juan Citizens Alliance, an environmental protection group based in Durango.

Buickerood joined the Hermosa Creek Workgroup, an initiative of the River Protection Workgroup, that discussed protection of this area. He said the intention of the plan for the area had been to “keep it just as it is.”

But Josh Green, Tipton’s press secretary, said the bill is inherently the same.

“The amendment will in no way change the outcome of the legislation’s goals agreed upon by the stakeholders,” Green wrote in an email.

In changing the language, Buickerood said the will of the community has been ignored.

The amendment has removed a small paragraph on “Use of Conveyed Land.” Currently, certain areas are open to hard-rock mining and logging. The five-line paragraph that was removed acted as a safeguard against future exploitation of the land.

“There’s nothing in here that says they couldn’t turn it over to a developer of oil or a developer of gas,” senior director of the Wilderness Society Jeremy Garncarz said of the effect of dropping the paragraph.

Green said the omission does not deviate from the stakeholders’ aims for that section…

The bill had been a collaboration involving two counties, multiple conservation groups and outdoor recreational groups, and more than 200 local businesses in La Plata and San Juan counties.

“The amendment guts it,” Garncarz said. “It throws all of that work out the window.”

The Senate bill remains unchanged from the version created by the drafting committee in conjunction with Sen. Michael Bennet’s office. Support for the Senate bill continues to be bipartisan.

Here’s an opinion piece written by Alicia Caldwell that’s running in The Denver Post:

For six years, those who appreciate the treasure that is Hermosa Creek worked to devise a meticulously tailored plan to protect it.

If you think about how mountain bikers, miners, hikers and anglers might look at “protection” differently, you realize it was no easy task.

But they did it. And the legislation they crafted was nearing an important milestone last week when a congressional committee upended that effort with a surprise amendment that some say eviscerates the protections.

Locals are concerned and ready to mobilize. It has been called a dirty trick.

And some are pointing the finger of blame squarely at Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, who had originally introduced the legislation last year and proposed the amendment.

What was praised by some — including Tipton — as a model for how federal protections should be crafted was changed to allow roads and power transmission lines, which hadn’t been previously contemplated, to go to a potential reservoir.

But even worse, it would significantly alter the language explaining the vision for protection of a significant piece of the area, said Scott Miller, southwest regional director for The Wilderness Society.

And Miller believes it would muffle local voices in shaping a management plan for the area, just outside Durango.

“It’s real bad policy they just shoved in there,” Miller said.

In an effort to head off the changes, 21 area businesses and organizations, including the Durango Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to Tipton last week saying any changes would undermine the “community decision-making process and are therefore unacceptable.”

It was to no avail.

The GOP-run House Committee on Natural Resources last week approved the amended version of the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act, which covers 108,000 acres.

The amendments are an affront to the diverse coalition of environmentalists, business owners, conservationists and recreational users who put their hearts and souls into the process.

I tried to talk to Tipton to ask him about the rationale for the changes, but got an e-mail from his spokesman Monday saying the congressman had “back-to-back meetings all day.”

The spokesman directed me to a piece Tipton wrote for The Durango Herald that tied the legislative amendments to federal management changes on another piece of land — Molas Pass — that pertained to the use of snowmobiles.

Tipton wrote that the Hermosa bill revisions “in no way changed the outcome of the legislation’s goals agreed upon by all of those who have been engaged throughout the entire process.”

I have a lot of questions about that statement and so do many of those who worked on or closely followed the plan.

The Herald’s editorial board last week called the changes — at that time just a proposal — a “last-minute dirty trick.”

Keith Curley, director of government affairs for Trout Unlimited, which had strongly supported the original bill, said his organization is still assessing the impact of the changes, particularly those relating to the goals in managing the area.

But more broadly, the legislation poses questions about how and whether Congress can agree on federal land preservation and what that looks like.

“Where it all lands is going to be closely watched by a lot of people,” Curley said.

The Hermosa Creek protections could hardly be any more consensus-oriented and locally driven than they were.

Whether the measure survives in a form true to its roots will speak volumes about whether Congress, particularly its GOP members, are truly serious about respecting local control.

Water Lines: New film on Grand Valley rivers available for viewing — Grand Junction Free Press #ColoradoRiver

Colorado National Monument from the Colorado River Trail near Fruita
Colorado National Monument from the Colorado River Trail near Fruita

From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

A new documentary film, “Water in the Desert” — which explores Grand Valley’s evolving relationship to the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers — is now available for viewing on the Internet, via DVD, or through presentations to community groups. The documentary was produced by the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University and local filmmaker Mara Ferris of Gen9 Productions

Without the Colorado and Gunnison rivers, and the human determination to apply their waters to the land, there would be no human settlement as we know it in the Grand Valley. Instead of our towns, parks, farm fields and orchards, the landscape would resemble the desolate, empty territory along I-70 between the state line and Green River, Utah.

The film tells the story of how the communities in the Grand Valley have depended on the Colorado and Gunnison rivers since the origins of these communities in the late 1800s, and how the communities’ relationship to the rivers has changed over time. It also addresses regional and climate factors that could pose challenges for current uses and the health of the river. The film is narrated by Steve Acquafresca and includes interviews with numerous local residents.

The Water Center would like for this film to inspire viewers to share their own river stories. Please send written work, links to videos, or artwork that expresses your connection to our rivers, and the Water Center will create a gallery for sharing them with the public. Email watercenter@coloradomesa.edu for more details.

This film was made possible by the financial contributions of the following sponsors: Chevron, the Colorado River District, the City of Grand Junction, the Western Colorado Community Foundation, Xcel Energy, the Grand Valley Water Users Association, Redlands Water and Power, the Grand Valley Irrigation Company, the Palisade Irrigation Company, the Tamarisk Coalition, Colorado Riverfront Foundation, Grand Valley Audubon, Trout Unlimited’s Colorado River Project, and the John McConnell Math & Science Center of Western Colorado.

Full details on opportunities for viewing the film are available at http://www.coloradomesa.edu/WaterCenter or by calling 970-248-1968.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Colorado task force takes 1st step in dealing with drilling conflicts — The Denver Post

Directional drilling from one well site via the National Science Foundation
Directional drilling from one well site via the National Science Foundation

From The Denver Post (Mark Jaffe):

The task force handpicked by Gov. John Hickenlooper to defuse the clash between residential communities and oil and gas drillers is set to hold its first meeting Thursday in Denver. The charge for the 21-member panel, which includes two chairpeople, is to develop recommendations on balancing state and local control of oil and gas drilling that can be turned into legislation.

Contending that wells are getting too close to homes, some Front Range municipalities have adopted local ordinances or bans and moratoriums on drilling. The state has sued the communities, saying only it can regulate drilling and has won district court judgments against Fort Collins, Longmont and Lafayette.

“The people who are at the table are really looking for compromise,” said task force member Will Toor, a former Boulder mayor and Boulder County commissioner.

The panel will have six months to work, and any recommendation will need to pass by a two-thirds vote.

At Thursday’s meeting, the group is expected to review existing state and local controls on drilling and have an initial discussion about the key issues. There will be a period for public comment from 4 to 6 p.m. at Colorado Parks and Wildlife offices at 6060 Broadway.

The panel was convened as part of a compromise brokered by the governor that removed four oil-and-gas-related initiatives from the November ballot. Two were backed by industry, and two that focused on bolstering local control and kept drilling rigs away from homes were supported by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder.

On Sept. 9, Hickenlooper issued an executive order outlining the issues the panel needs to address such as air quality and the siting of wells near homes and in floodplains.

“The question is: What will the task force focus on?” said Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, a trade group. Dempsey is not a task force member.

The task force is being chaired by La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt and Randy Cleveland, president of XTO Energy Inc., a subsidiary of ExxonMobil. The task force includes six members representing economic interests. Of those, four are oil and gas industry executives and one each are from the homebuilding and agriculture sectors. There are six task force members representing conservation and homeowner groups, as well as local officials. Hickenlooper also chose seven civic leaders who do not have a direct interest in the issue, including retired Colorado Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Kourlis.

“I hope we can inform legislation,” said Sara Barwinski, a member of the task force and the grassroots group Weld Air and Water.

“If all the parties respectfully listen and put their cards on the table and realize this has to be addressed,” she said. “I am full of hope we can come up with a concrete recommendation.”

More oil and gas coverage here.

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

Plains month to date precipitiation September 1 thru September 22, 2014
Plains month to date precipitiation September 1 thru September 22, 2014

Click here to read the current assessment. Here’s an excerpt:

Last Week Precipitation:

  • Good moisture fell over the UCRB over the past week, mainly from the remnants of hurricane Odile.
  • The Green river basin received 0.25-1.00″ for the week.
  • Farther to the south, the Gunnison and San Juan basins picked up above average moisture in the range of 1-2″ over the higher terrain.
  • Lower areas around the Four Corners (espeically in San Juan county,UT) were drier, receiving less than 0.50″.
  • Above average moisture also made it into the headwaters of the South Platte and Arkansas basin, mainly in Park and Chaffee counties.
  • East of the divide, precipitation was spotty. The wetter areas to the north were over Morgan, Logan and Washington counties, farther to the south Pueblo, Huerfano and Las Animas counties received normal to above normal precipitation for the week. The central plains were very dry, receiving less than 0.10″over much of the area.
  • Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here.