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C o l o r a d o F o u n d at i o n f o r Wat e r E d u c at i o n | W i n t e r / S p r i n g 2 0 0 7

Colorado’s

Ripp l e New Energy E f f e c ts Economy


HEADWATERS | W inter / S pring 2007 Colorado Foundation for Water Education C o l o r a d o F o u n d at i o n F o r Wat e r e d u C at i o n | W i n t e r / S p r i n g 2 0 0 7

1580 Logan St., Suite 410 • Denver, CO 80203 303-377-4433 • www.cfwe.org Mission Statement

On the Cover: Photos by iStockPhoto.com, Ed Kosmicki (2), Michael Lewis and Emmett Jordan.

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3HOOKD /DV&MDQFX &EEDBSR &BNMNLX

Letter from the Editor.........................................................................................................1 Ripple Effects—Colorado’s New Energy Economy

The mission of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education is to promote better understanding of water resources through education and information. The Foundation does not take an advocacy position on any water issue.

Board Members Diane Hoppe President

Justice Gregory J. Hobbs, Jr.

Surface Concerns.....................................................................................................2

1st Vice President

Run of the River.......................................................................................................9

2nd Vice President

Oil Shale Déjà Vu...................................................................................................11 Legislature and Governor’s Office Lead the Way Into Colorado’s New Energy Economy....................................................................................14

Significant New Energy Legislation in the General Assembly’s 2007 Session......16

Matt Cook

Wendy Hanophy Secretary

Rita Crumpton

Assistant Secretary

Chris Rowe Treasurer

Ken Lykens

Assistant Treasurer

Corn-Based Ethanol Recasts Water’s Role............................................................17

Produced Water Generates Doubts, Data, Discussion...........................................21 Colorado Students Write Winning Water Poems.............................................................26 Membership “Thank You”................................................................................................29

Produced water from coalbed methane drilling is spread on county roads around near Gulnare, Colo. Photo by Michael Lewis.

Steve Acquafresca Becky Brooks Rep. Kathleen Curry Alan Hamel Taylor Hawes Lynn Herkenhoff Sen. Jim Isgar Rod Kuharich Veva McCaig Margaret Medellin Dale Mitchell John Porter John Redifer Rick Sackbauer Robert Sakata Reagan Waskom Staff Don Glaser

Headwaters is a magazine designed to provide Colorado citizens with balanced and accurate information on a variety of subjects related to water resources. Copyright 2007 by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education. ISSN: 1546-0584 Edited by Lori Ozzello. Design by Emmett Jordan. Acknowledgments The Colorado Foundation for Water Education thanks the people and organizations who provided review, comment and assistance in the development of this issue.

Executive Director

Jeannine Tompkins Office Manager


Wa†ermarks

Energy has emerged as one of world’s greatest challenges. Demand for all its forms continues to increase as our population grows and our standard of living rises. Unrest in oil producing countries around the globe as well as increased competition from developing countries drives up international prices on an increasingly more unreliable petroleum supply. These events are affecting U.S energy policy resulting in increased oil and gas exploration by domestic energy companies. At the same time, significant effort is focused on alternative energy development, including a new look at the economic and technical feasibility of extracting oil from oil shale. Biofuels, as an alternative to gasoline, are gaining popularity. Ethanol, a biofuel made from the sugar in corn, is manufactured and sold as one alternative. The extraction of methane gas, a form of natural gas, from coal deposits also is quickly expanding. Hydroelectric power remains an important part of Colorado’s energy supply. Expansion of this resource has been limited by concerns regarding the effects operations for hydroelectric generation have on river systems. New attention is being directed to run-of-the-river systems which have the potential of minimizing the adverse affects associated with hydroelectric generation. New energy activity is occurring throughout the West. Oil shale and coal bed methane exploration and development is focused in the inter-mountain West region. Already experiencing a significant increase in oil and gas production, Colorado is also at the center of expanding alternative energy efforts. This activity will likely have a positive impact on the state’s economy, increase available energy and stabilize cost to the consumer. Some activities may have the potential to adversely affect the waters of the state and increase the competition for already scarce water supplies. This Headwaters Magazine explores the relationship of water to energy production. Much remains to be learned about the effects of energy development on the state’s water resources. Given the importance Colorado’s citizens place on a safe, reliable, high quality water supply, we must pursue these possibilities responsibly. Understanding the issue is a good start.

Night image of the world from space provided by NASA

Don Glaser

Don Glaser

Executive Director

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Surface Concerns Story by Donna Gray

A crew works on the platform of a drilling rig for a new well near Parachute. Photo by Ed Kosmicki.

Dust rises from an access road (background) to a natural gas drilling rig near the Roan Plateau near Parachute. Peggy Utesch (above), of New Castle, sits in front of her new home. Utesch and her husband sold their home in nearby Silt after gas drilling rigs and gas wells started to operate nearby. Photos by Kevin Moloney.



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Concerned

about water quantity and

quality impacts, Coloradans are watching the state’s burgeoning natural gas industry and monitoring the effects of dewatering aquifers, discharging produced water and hydraulic fracturing.

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C o l o r a d o f o u n d a t i o n f o r W a t e r E d u c a t i o n


Nat u r a l g as p r o d u ct i o n i s i m p o r ta n t to Colorado’s economy. One of the top natural gas-producing states, outputs from Colorado’s basins account for roughly 5 percent of the annual U.S. production. The Piceance Basin in northwestern Colorado holds the second largest proven reserve in the nation, and a lot of promise. Residents and industry use only about 40 percent of the total produced, though. The rest is transported to California and Midwest markets.

construction loan and trust fund operation accounts. Earlier this year, the board approved loans of $75 million and $60 million, respectively, for Aurora’s Prairie Waters project and construction of the long-delayed Arkansas Valley Conduit. Yet the increased production in recent years is accompanied by citizens’ concerns as drill and pumping rigs punctuate vistas. From homeowners to government officials, Coloradans are watching the industry and monitoring the effects of dewatering aquifers, discharging produced water and hydraulic fracturing.

Oil and mining companies pay severance taxes to the state for

Gwen Lachelt, director of the Oil and Gas Accountability

removing nonrenewable resources. The taxes produce funds—in

Project in Durango, says she’s received many complaints from

2006, an estimated $242 million—for a wide variety of public

people in the area about contaminated or affected water wells.

purposes. For instance, cities and towns split $16.7 million. The

“People say, ’I have so much methane in my well, I can light

tax revenue supports the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s

it on fire,’ or ‘I’ve lost mine (my water) altogether.’ The water

A worker handles pipe on a re-work rig on the Roan Plateau near Parachute. Photo by Ed Kosmicki.

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Who regulates the gas industry in Colorado? • The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission regulates all gas activities including surface and down-hole well spacing, drilling, treatment and disposal of waste and reclamation—restoring the land surface as closely as possible to its original condition. It also requires operators to notify surface owners of its intentions to drill and consult with them about the location of well pads, roads and pipelines and associated facilities. If the operator and surface owner cannot reach agreement, the operator posts a bond for each well it drills.

• The state Water Quality Control Division requires storm water and discharge permits on gas construction sites between 1 and 5 acres in size. • The Bureau of Land Management regulates gas drilling on all federal land. Operators must apply for a drilling permit, which stipulates a surface use plan and a plan for operation and reclamation. Operators also post performance bonds before drilling begins. On private land where the federal government owns the mineral rights, an operator must notify land owners about drilling plans.

The Piceance Basin located in western Colorado is an elongated structural depression trending northwest - southeast. The basin is more than 100 miles long and has an average width of over 60 miles, encompassing an area of approximately 7,110 square miles. The Piceance structural basin encompasses varying portions of Moffat, Rio Blanco, Garfield, Mesa, Pitkin, Delta, Gunnison and Montrose counties. Groundwater Atlas of Colorado, Colorado Geological Survey.



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According to an EPA report this year, an average coalbed methane well discharges about a million gallons of water per week… issues are huge here,” says Lachelt. Several methods of natural gas production are employed in Colorado. In coalbed methane production, where wells are drilled to capture methane in coal deposits, energy companies must de-water underground aquifers before the methane is released. The result, called produced water, can be discharged into nearby streams or injected into disposal wells. Other options exist, such as spraying the water on dirt roads to control dust. According to an EPA report this year, an average coalbed methane well discharges about a million gallons of water per week, or about “the same amount of water 100,000 people would drink over their lifetimes.” Often the water is highly saline and has elevated levels of total dissolved solids. The EPA calls produced water “the number one waste management issue related to (gas) drilling and production operations.” To get the gas out of what are known as the tight sands of the Piceance Basin in western Colorado, hydraulic fracturing is used to release the gas from narrow lenses in the rock formations. Water, sand and various chemicals are pumped into a well bore under high pressure, breaking apart the rock. The sand particles hold the fractures open so the gas can flow into the well. On average, 2 million gallons of water are pumped into a well during fracturing. Water laced with crude petroleum or hydrocarbons is also produced. Contaminated water is disposed of in evaporation pits on drill pads or trucked to commercial evaporation pits. Gas operations may also affect water quality. If runoff is allowed to flow unchecked off well pads or roads, it can cause erosion and carry sediment and contaminants to nearby streams or lakes. People living in areas where gas wells are drilled have complained drilling has contaminated water wells, caused serious health problems and dried up seeps, springs and wells. They also contend produced water released into streams where they draw irrigation water has damaged their crops. In 2001, Laura and Larry Amos, hunt

ing outfitters who lived south of Silt in the middle of a gas field, told the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission that their well literally blew up like a geyser one day. Afterward, the water that came out of their tap fizzed, bubbled, and smelled bad. The bad water, they claimed, was caused by fracturing at a nearby EnCana Oil and Gas (USA) well. Two years later, Laura was diagnosed with an adrenal gland tumor, which was treated successfully. She claimed toxic chemicals used in the fracturing of the well caused her health problems. In 2006, after a lengthy series of hearings before the COGCC, which regulates natural gas operations in the state, EnCana was fined $176,800 for contaminating the Amos well and a well on a neighbor’s property. COGCC tested the water in both wells and found they contained methane produced by the EnCana well. Tests did not show evidence of fracturing fluids. Similar water well problems have been reported in the San Juan Basin, where coalbed methane development is taking place. In 2006, the Department of Natural Resources released a study that linked the draw-down of underground aquifers and the depletion of area streams in the basin to coalbed methane drilling. The report predicted a loss of 160 to 170 acre feet of water a year in the San Juan Basin over the next 20 to 30 years of gas activity. By comparison, the report also noted that amount is less than the amount of water drained by domestic water wells in the San Juan Basin in a year. Driven by concerns about the potential effects of the gas industry on water quality, and to get a better handle on ground and surface water characteristics south of Silt, Garfield County commissioned a hydro-geologic characterization study that found the area is riddled with natural faults and fractures that could become pathways for production gas to escape above ground. The study also found that water quality was naturally poor in much of the area. Contaminants such as sodium, selenium and nitrates were found in water wells that exceeded safe drinking water standards. Natural methane also

occurs in high volumes in some water wells. The study did not directly connect gas drilling with water quality. Water quality is protected by federal, state and to some extent, local regulations. The EPA is responsible for water under the Clean Water Act. This statute and its implementing regulations apply, for example, to waste water treatment plants which discharge waster into streams and rivers. In the 1990s, concern grew about nonpoint source pollution, which can’t be linked to a particular source, such as a sewer plant, says Dave Merritt, district engineer with the Colorado River Water Conservation District in Glenwood Springs. “Storm water runoff is the largest source of non-point source pollution in the state,” he says. “States have primacy (over the EPA) in water quality regulations.” The state Water Quality Control Commission, a division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, has regulations in place for construction sites that disturb more than five acres of land. Contractors are required to prevent sediment from running off construction sites using storm water fencing and hay bales, among other measures, to prevent erosion. What the WQCC was not regulating were well pads that are generally less than five acres in size. The federal Energy Policy Act, signed into law in August 2005, exempted energy companies from federal water quality permitting. The following April, the WQCC promulgated storm water runoff regulations that applied to natural gas construction operations. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association and the Colorado Petroleum Association sued to block the WQCC regulations, but the suit was eventually withdrawn. The WQCC conducted public hearings in January 2006 and representatives of the industry said by all rights the COGCC should have authority over storm water control. The WQCC received more than 2,400 public comment letters, most of them urging the commission to adopt the regulations. After the hearings, the WQCC adopted the storm water regulations, which apply to oil and gas construction sites of one to five acres. Once construction is completed and gas activity

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A gas well maintenance crew pulls a length of pipe from a well below the Roan Plateau near Parachute. Photo by Kevin Moloney. begins, COGCC has jurisdiction. Some of the most intensive gas drilling in the nation is in western Colorado, along the Colorado River, which provides drinking water for many communities. Several of those towns and cities have seen gas operations move closer or into their watersheds and have taken steps to prevent drilling from harming water quality. In 1994, Rifle passed a watershed protection ordinance that requires anyone planning a ground-disturbing activity to obtain a permit from the city. “The purpose was to regulate activities that posed a threat to water quality,” says Rifle city attorney Lee Leavenworth. The city requires energy companies to get watershed permits, which include storm water management and spill prevention plans. “The biggest hassle is getting the companies educated about the process,” says Rifle City Manager John Hier. Some were unaware permits were required and the city imposed fines. “They were not huge fines,” Hier says, but just enough to get their attention. He hasn’t seen any problems with water contamination, and the permits require annual inspections, so any corrections that need to be made are completed. Durango adopted an ordinance to control drilling within city limits. Based on a similar ordinance in Greeley, which has 300 gas wells in its city limits, the Durango rule requires a 350-foot setback from buildings, and companies must notify neighbors before flaring or burning gas off a well. La Plata County regulated gas drilling through its land use code. “The county has made a huge differ

ence as a go-between the land owners and industry,” says Oil and Gas Accountability Project’s Lachelt. The county requires on-site inspection with energy companies and surface land owners. Setbacks are 400 feet between a well and a building and noise and visual mitigation rules also apply, she says. “It’s really a good set of oil and gas rules. It works and county staff enforces the regulations.” In what might be seen as something of an unusual move, one county in western Colorado has also chosen to put gas development rules in place although it does not have a lot of activity. San Miguel County, whose county seat is Telluride, adopted regulations last year. “We saw the level of activity increase in the last several years and with what’s going on in Garfield County, we had a bunch of people concerned about impacts and they requested the county do something,” says count attorney Steve Zwick. “Although we’ve had limited development, there was a huge increase in lands nominated for (gas) leasing by BLM,” says county planner Mike Rosycki. Framing the regulations had its own set of challenges. He says it was difficult to strike a balance that didn’t overstep the county’s regulatory authority, but still controlled surface impacts. The county also had to recognize the rights of energy companies to develop the gas and the needs of surface owners to limit disturbance. “We sat down with a diverse group” of energy companies, private land owners, and conservation groups to review the regulations, Rosycki says. Among the requirements are reclamation of sur-

face damage and protection of wetlands, and a “big one for the public, stringent notice requirements so folks know what’s going on” in the development process, he says. Two of the top-producing companies in the state, Williams Production and EnCana Oil & Gas (USA), have taken steps beyond what’s required under state regulations to protect water quality. EnCana constructed a water treatment plant south of Silt to treat water from 24 experimental coalbed methane wells. The plant filters highly saline water produced by the wells and reduces total dissolved solids to an acceptable level, says Mark Thrush, an engineer with EnCana. Water from the plant is then released into a nearby stream. Last year Williams installed coded wooden stakes in areas of the gas fields which alert reclamation contractors to the specific need, whether its hay bales around a well pad or a culvert under a road. They look up the code on the stake in Williams’ best management practices handbook which lays out installation procedures for specific erosion control devices. As contractors, the COGCC, and BLM become accustomed to seeing the stakes, “the complaint calls have been reduced by 75 percent,” says Williams’ senior environmental specialist Rob Bleil. Williams’ aim “is zero percent discharge” from pads and roads. Encouraged by concerned citizens, state and local governments are more aware than ever about the need to protect water quality. And with the average life of a gas well estimated to be about 30 years, that’s a long-term commitment. q

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Run

River of the

Story by Lori Ozzello

It’s feasible. And to the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association, the possibility of adding a revenue stream and hydropower to their project offers a handful of opportunities. “We have the water,” explains Umcompahgre’s manager Marc Catlin. “It seems to be the best answer: We take water we already have and use it before we send it to the farmers.

“What better way to store energy than in a snowbank?”

©2007 iStockPhoto.com/Jim Parkin

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Across the United States, the DOE says hydropower accounts for only 7 percent of electricity generated, but it’s 73 percent of all renewable energy now produced. Consultants tell Catlin the association, which operates the Gunnison Tunnel, could expect to produce 3 to 4 megawatt hours. Uncompahgre would, says Catlin, be a peak power producer. The cost to build is about $1 million per megawatt. Hydropower—using water to turn a wheel or turbine—has been around for centuries. It can be generated either by the release of water stored in a reservoir or by a run-of-the-river system, in which the force of the current applies the needed pressure to turn the turbines. In Colorado, 415 electric utilities currently produce hydropower, up from 334 a year ago, according to a U.S. Department of Energy report. The state has 38 independent power producers. The major advantages to hydropower are that: • Water is a renewable, cheap source of energy; • Hydropower causes no thermal or air pollution; and • Turbines can be started and stopped in a comparatively short amount of time. Hydroelectric power makes an important contribution to Colorado and the West’s energy supply. The Aspinall Unit reservoirs and power plants near Gunnison, with a total capacity of 275 megawatts, now provide up to 50 percent of the peaking power in the Colorado River Storage Project system. Two federal agencies, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Western Area Power Administration, operate the water and hydroelectric facilities at Aspinall. Companion features in the Upper Colorado River Basin are located at Navajo (547 megawatt capacity), Flaming Gorge (152 megawatt capacity), and Lake Powell (1,300 megawatt capacity). The Federal Power Act provides that power from these hydroelectric plants is offered for sale first to federal facility, municipal, rural electric, and tribal customers. Any remaining power can then be sold to investor-owned utilities. The power revenues repay the federal government’s investments in the power 10

features and are also used for environmental programs like salinity control projects, the Upper Basin Recovery Implementation Program for endangered fish species, and the Glen Canyon Adaptive Management Program. Across the United States, the DOE says hydropower accounts for only 7 percent of electricity generated, but it’s 73 percent of all renewable energy now produced. Opportunities may exist to install low head hydroelectric units on irrigation canals and reservoirs in Colorado, as the state implements its renewable energy mix. Stagecoach Reservoir in the Yampa River Basin includes a hydropower feature, and Umcompahgre may be next. The Gunnison Tunnel diverts water from the Gunnison River in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and supplies the water users association with 60 percent of its water. The 6-mile tunnel, a USBR project completed in 1909, has a 750foot vertical drop. Catlin ticks off a list of advantages, for the region and the western power grid. “There are tangible benefits,” he says. “If we’re making electricity, we can help with systemized irrigation in the (Uncompahgre) valley. Low head power is feasible. More grants and loans for these kinds of projects will be available. It could be a win-win situation because there’s no waste and no smoke. We have the market. The southwest is going to keep growing and needs the peak power. It’s a value-added crop in a lot of ways.” Most importantly, Catlin believes the revenue will help preserve agriculture by reducing power costs for the association’s members. “I want other irrigators to think about this,” Catlin says. With the alternative energy technology advancing every day, “Someday we’ll be plugging our tractors in.” The project Catlin and his 40-member staff operate is 100 years old. He wants to see its legacy continue and sees hydropower as part of the equation. “The answer today is ‘Let’s be flexible and creative’ not ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it.’” q

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Oil Shale Déjà Vu For the people of western Colorado, oil shale has been both a blessing and a curse.

In this 2005 photo, Ken Brown, Shell Manager of Unconventional Resources in Colorado holds a piece of shale from a nearby hillside in front of the Mahogany Research Project site. The Colorado River, below, flows near Parachute. Photos by Ed Kosmicki.

Story by Donna Gray

Touted as the solution to the country’s energy shortfall in the 1970s and ‘80s, oil shale development caused rapid growth followed by a precipitous economic decline when it failed to reach commercial production. Once again the United States is faced with declining reserves of oil and a sharp increase in worldwide demand, and oil shale is getting a second look. The old adage, “The more things change, the more they remain the same,” could be the motto of the new plans for oil shale. Familiar fears have arisen once again. Area governments fear the industry will bring thousands of workers to small communities unprepared for the influx. Rural western Colorado officials fear oil shale development will adversely affect the lifestyle they cherish. This time

around, oil shale will only add to the impacts already felt in a region experiencing burgeoning oil and gas development. The scenario is familiar to people who were in the area in the 1970s. More than 30 years ago, the country was firmly in the grip of an energy crisis. OPEC price and production practices catapulted retail gas prices, curtailed supplies, and extended lines at the pump. President Jimmy Carter encouraged alternative energy development. Congress formed the Synthetic Fuels Corporation to promote research, and set aside $12 billion in price guarantees and tax incentives to jump start the process. On the other hand, oil shale isn’t new or alternative. It is a sedimentary rock formed more than 50 million years ago in the shallow Cretaceous seas that covered

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11


Low grade, oxidized oil shale sits just above Shell’s Mahogany Research Project complex, which has produced oil from oil shale. Photo by Ed Kosmicki.

Overall, the U.S. Water Resources Council calculates three barrels of water will be needed to produce one barrel of shale oil.

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much of the West. The rock contains an organic material, kerogen. When heated, kerogen is released and can be refined into oil. As far back as the 19th century oil shale was used as a fuel source. According to a 2005 Department of Energy report, the United States holds the world’s largest oil shale reserves, an estimated 1.5 to 1.8 trillion barrels in the Green River Formation. The oil shale-bearing marlstones extend through northwestern Colorado, southwest Wyoming and northeast Utah. In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson recognized its potential as a strategic petroleum source for the nation, and set aside tens of thousands of acres as the Naval Oil Shale Reserves of Colorado and Utah. The catch: No technology existed at the time to extract the oil. During the 1950s and ‘60s a handful of energy companies developed oil shale using traditional mining methods and above-ground retorting. But it wasn’t until the 1970s energy crisis when the federal government released the Naval Oil Shale Reserves for commercial use that oil companies committed to commercial development of oil shale. Although they made modest advances in production, the industry never produced commercial quantities of shale oil. On Sunday, May 2, 1982, the boom came to an abrupt halt. Glenn Vawter was a senior vice president with The Oil Shale Company, or TOSCO, a partner with Exxon in the Colony Oil Shale Project, in Parachute, Colo. He remembers the day the Colony

Project shut down, putting him and more than 2,000 other people out of work. “I was in a state of shock,” he said, after getting the news. While Exxon shut down, Unocal continued to produce modest amounts of shale oil at its Parachute plant until it closed in 1991. A dramatic drop in world oil prices alarmed companies involved in oil shale production. They had anticipated a continued rise in prices as well as shortages in foreign oil. Soaring oil prices and demands by rapidly industrializing countries, such as China and India, precipitated the latest push to develop oil shale. In March 2005, the Department of Energy’s Office of Naval Petroleum and Oil Shale Reserves published “Strategic Significance of America’s Oil Shale Resource,” which predicted a shortfall in the worldwide oil supply in the next 20 years. Later in 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, which mandated the Bureau of Land Management to offer research, development and demonstration leases to test new oil shale extraction technology. It also directed BLM to hold a commercial oil shale lease sale by the spring of 2008. The agency recently released a draft programmatic environmental impact statement that analyzed the potential oil shale development effects in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. While no one knows for sure what the environmental consequences of the new oil shale industry will finally be, there are indications. A 2005 report by the RAND Corp.

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identifies water consumption as the major development issue. In an effort to understand what those water demands might be, the Yampa and White River Basin Roundtable and the Colorado River Basin Roundtable intend to analyze the near- and long-term water requirements in a region that is at the epicenter of current oil and gas, coal and oil shale development. The basin roundtable process was created by House Bill 1177 and The Water for the Twenty-First Century Act. The roundtables include representatives from municipalities, local government, water conservation districts, as well as environmental and recreational interests. The roundtables’ goal is to identify water availability and demand within each river basin. The analysis will look at water needed for extraction and processing of the oil shale and additional municipal water requirements for communities enlarged by incoming energy workers. Water will also be necessary for the electricity needed to heat the shale underground. Shell’s in-situ retort research has determined that 250 to 300 kilowatt hours are required for each barrel of oil produced. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that for every kilowatt hour of power required, 25 gallons of water is needed. Overall, the U.S. Water Resources Council calculates three barrels of water will be needed to produce one barrel of shale oil. By international agreement, a barrel of oil equals 42 U.S. gallons, or almost 160 liters. Oil shale development could increase annual consumptive water use in the upper Colorado River basin by 150,000 acre feet annually for each million barrels of oil shale produced, predicted former director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources Russell George in his testimony before a Senate Energy Committee hearing in Grand Junction in 2006. Jeff Devere, Rangely’s assistant town manager, worries no long-range planning for water needs has been done. Rangely felt the brunt of the last oil shale boom and is now in the grips of accelerating natural gas development. “Reservoirs take decades to develop,” Devere said. “If you need it 20 to 30 years down the road you’d better get on it today. We need to begin to talk about a population base that will triple. We need to talk about (water) storage and reservoir capacity on the White River.” “We’re sitting on some of the last

unused water in the state.” Energy development in northwestern Colorado, Devere said, “will require environmental and industrial compromises” that will limit industry and strengthen environmental regulations. It will also require building more reservoirs. “We need to do this in a balanced way. If we don’t, we’ll die a death by many small cuts.” Finding available water will be a challenge. Some companies now engaged in oil shale research on BLM lands held on to the water rights acquired during the last boom. “Water was not a limitation (then). It was an important part of our resource portfolio,” said Chris Treese, external affairs manager with the Colorado River Water Conservation District in Glenwood Springs. He worked for Unocal during the ‘80s oil shale boom. Available water rights now are much more limited. Chevron still holds water rights it purchased in the 1950s on Roan Creek near Parachute and on the Colorado River, Treese said. “Shell has been very aggressively purchasing water rights in the White River basin.” Vawter said his company, EGL Resources, does not have water rights but is preparing to purchase them. Besides the challenge of finding available water, 25 years later companies also face a changed political climate. Unocal bought water rights up and down the Colorado River Valley between Glenwood Springs and Parachute. In Glenwood Springs alone it purchased three ranches for the water rights that went with the land. It has since sold those rights. “We have a skeptical public, that is gunshy over the prospect of oil shale,” Vawter said. “There’s also the ethos around water rights. Recreation and environmental values are greater today than in the 80s.” The new in-situ technology requires less water for production than the mining and above-ground retort process used during the last boom. The retort process involved heating the shale to 750-950°F. At the high temperatures, the kerogen decomposed to gas, oil vapor and char. The gas and oil vapors are cooled and the oil condensed. Water left over from cooling and condensation had to be treated before disposal. To prevent contamination, the new process requires isolating the production area from the surrounding groundwater. Shell is experimenting with a process to

freeze water around the production zone. “It will be the real challenge this time with oil shale,” Vawter said. EGL will attempt to de-water the shale production zone with a ring of wells that will draw the groundwater off. Water could be contaminated with the hydrocarbons associated with kerogen and natural gas, and the hydrocarbons will have to be separated during processing. Once the oil and natural gas are drawn off, groundwater will seep back into the retort chamber and could become contaminated with residual hydrocarbons. “We’ll have to pump it out and treat it until it’s cleaned up and can meet regulatory standards,” Vawter said. Water produced from processing may be re-injected into the ground, but if improperly handled could increase the salinity of the groundwater. High levels of salinity are already a problem in the Colorado River Basin, where there is an ongoing Salinity Control Program. “We’re spending $500 to $750 million to clean up the salinity in the Colorado River,” said Cathy Kay, oil shale organizer for Western Colorado Congress, a community action group. Jim Evans helped establish the Associated Governments of Northwestern Colorado in the 1970s to bring a balance to rampant oil shale development. He holds out hope for oil shale’s latest go-round. “I believe our region is somewhat protected because 80 percent of the activity will be on public land,” and the environmental impact statement now being prepared by BLM will set standards for mitigation, Evans said. “The bigger issue is the ultimate water supply for growth in the region as all these energy resources continued to be developed. I don’t think it’s an insurmountable problem.” What local, state and federal governments must take into account, though, is the impact of all energy development. “That’s the reason why we’re growing in northwest Colorado. This time around is not the boom and bust cycle of the past,” he said. Because oil shale developers are proceeding as they should have in the 80s, through a research program that will test the technology before commercial production gets under way, it’s more likely to last. “It’s absolutely happening the correct way,” he said. Only time—and the eventual commercial development of oil shale—will tell. q

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Legislature and Governor’s Office Lead the Way

Morey Wolfson doesn’t head Gov. Bill Ritter’s Energy Office. That job belongs to Tom Plant. But Wolfson is yet another example of the governor’s penchant for hiring savvy veterans with significant Colorado water and energy experience. Wolfson spent 15 years, principally during Roy Romer’s governorship, as the executive assistant to commissioners at the Public Utilities Commission. He then spent nearly five years at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. He’s an expert in renewables – solar and wind power, and energy efficiency. Wolfson led the successful 2004 campaign to have the people of Colorado enact Amendment 37, setting a target of 10 percent renewable-generated electrical production by PUC-regulated utilities by the year 2015. The state’s principal investor-owned utility is already ahead of that target. “Xcel Energy is expected to meet the 10 percent renewable goal by the end of this year, about seven years ahead of schedule,” says Wolfson. “In April the General Assembly doubled the renewable energy goal.” Wolfson credits the new breed of legislators who campaigned on bringing more clean and efficient energy to Colorado. Doubling Amendment 37 was the result of a broad bi-partisan effort. The new target is 20 percent renewable-generated electrical production in the portfolio mix of PUC-regulated utilities by 2020.

“Not only that! Rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities,” says Wolfson, “which are largely exempt from PUC regulation, will be included in the renewable portfolio standard. Under House Bill 1281 they will share in the New Energy Economy by including 10 percent renewable production in their electrical generation mix by 2020.” That includes all the rural co-ops served by Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. Tri-State is a wholesale electric power supplier serving 44 distribution cooperatives in four states—Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Nebraska. “We’re well on the path in Colorado,” Wolfson says, “for renewable power production, 96 percent wind and 4 percent solar is likely where we will be. However, there is room for other renewables – such as biomass and geothermal – should they prove to be cost-effective. Creating a new pathway for energy development in Colorado ties in well with the classic water-conscious dilemma for a watershort state.” One thing you really notice about being in Wolfson’s office: He doesn’t automatically turn the lights on. That’s consistent with his passion for energy savings as a fundamental element of Colorado’s new energy economy. The state’s population is growing, and with it the demand for electricity. Supplying an ever-increasing portion

Photo by Brian Gadbery

Morey Wolfson pictured in his Denver office with a model photovoltaic system. of power through renewables is the Governor’s Energy Office’s goal. Wolfson says that “the beauty of wind turbines is that they don’t consume water, and their fuel source is free and non-polluting. Commercial and residential efficiency measures don’t consume water either and these ‘demand side’ measures are generally far less expensive than building new generation to meet the fore-

These wind turbines are part of a new wind farm under construction east of Grover, Colorado, near the Wyoming state line. Photo by Emmett Jordan.

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Into Colorado’s New Energy Economy casted growth in demand. “The utilities project a load growth of about 2 percent load per year. Demand side management can help flatten electrical usage as the population grows. Regrettably, Colorado’s utilities have been relatively slow to adopt energy efficiency measures compared to most states. However, there is good news. That’s going to change!” Part of Wolfson’s job is to shape the office’s participation in PUC proceedings. “Investor-owned utilities such as Xcel Energy do integrated resource planning, where they project out their electric needs and how they intend to meet that need by a combination of new generation and conservation measures,” Wolfson says. “The legislature has helped ensure that new integrated resource plans include incentives to both utilities and customers to embrace energy efficiency. “Utilities gain by allowing the companies to now earn sound returns for offering energy efficiency programs. Customers gain by availing themselves of steep discounts in the cost of high performance equipment and lighting for both new and existing buildings. We’ll be intervening in PUC proceedings to add technical help and the constant reminder that the legislature and the governor eagerly anticipate positive change.“ Wolfson plainly relishes what the governor is doing. The governor was

beaming—no pun intended—when he shoveled the dirt to launch the construction of an 8 megawatt solar power plant near Alamosa. Quite frankly, we see a big part of our job at the energy office is to continuously help create opportunities for more renewable energy.” Behind Wolfson’s desk hangs a poster of one of Claude Monet’s water lily paintings. He’s also into maps. “As a result of legislative direction, Colorado will be mapping the state for hydroelectric, biomass, wind, geothermal, and solar electrical production potential. The detailed maps will provide another impetus to help attract more renewable energy businesses and jobs to the state.” Wolfson points to changes in the natural gas industry as a driver that is spurring the state’s lead in the renewables field. “Until a few years ago, natural gas was relatively inexpensive and building gas-fired electric generation is less expensive than coal,” he says. “But now that gas prices are in a whole new higher price band, and since wells are depleting faster than ever, changes are occurring. Higher gas prices pass through to cause higher power bills. Higher power bills cause customers to rethink their projections about the future, causing behavioral changes. “For example, builders, buyers, and lessees of commercial buildings are recognizing that it is more likely than not

that high natural gas prices will be with us for a very long time. Architects, planners, and builders are buying into the need to achieve higher standards and adoption of more stringent building and energy codes. “We’re seeing more evidence of home builders and home owners becoming more eager to incorporate the newest energy efficiency devices and measures into their homes.” When asked about oil shale, which he hastens to add is outside of his responsibilities, Wolfson hit a cautious note. He says that research and development is appropriate, and a commercial scale enterprise is widely considered to be many years into the future. “Regrettably, it takes a tremendous amount of energy and water to extract oil from shale.” When asked about clean coal, he says, “In the long run, coal technologies may significantly reduce carbon loading of the atmosphere compared to traditional coal-fired plants, and for that reason, research and development ought to be encouraged. However, we are at the very early stages of clean coal technology development and the likelihood of high costs are a concern.” Wolfson is also an accomplished bluegrass, jazz, and rock-n’-roll musician. Asked what lyric he might suggest for what he and his colleagues at the Governor’s Energy Office are doing, he says, “Don’t you let nobody turn you around.” q

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Significant New Energy Legislation in the General Assembly’s 2007 Session u HB 1281 requires a 20 percent renewable energy portfolio by 2020 for investor-owned utilities. • Provides for non-investor owned and municipal-owned utility 10 percent renewable energy portfolio by 2020. • Benchmarks are complemented by legislation that sets up infrastructure for a renewable energy economy. u HB 1037 directs the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to set goals and policies that provide incentives for investor-owned electric and gas utilities to partner with their consumers to become far more efficient than at present. u HB 1279 provides tax credits for renewable energy producers. For example, it brought the Danish company Vestas to Weld County. Vestas is the global leader in wind turbine manufacturing. u SB 246 provides for a Clean Energy Fund for the purpose of advancing energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the state, administered by the Governor’s Energy Office. u HB 1150 establishes a state funding mechanism, the Clean Energy Authority, to leverage bond proceeds and provides government backed loan guarantees through a public authority for the purpose of building transmission capacity for renewable resources. u SB 100 requires PUC-jurisdictional utilities to identify energy resource zones for transmission development, providing current cost recovery as an incentive to build transmission lines to Colorado’s renewable resource rich zones. u SB 91 creates the 16-member Renewable Resource Generation Task Force to utilize sophisticated geographic information systems that will map out resources and load centers for the purpose of planning projects, including transmission capability, to meet increasing demand and renewable energy supply from rural areas.

• Will conduct at least four meetings, open to the public, to identify renewable resource development areas. • Will consist of representatives from investor-owned utilities, solar, wind, and less mainstream renewable energy fields, agriculture, municipal utilities, the general assembly, local interest, NREL and others. u HB 1341, applicable to the Oil and Gas Commission, calls for responsible, balanced development that includes protection of the environment and wildlife resources. This act re-defines waste and states that waste does not include any action taken by the commission to protect the public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources. It changes the composition of the commission. • Increases board to nine from seven members. • The two new members include the executive director of the Department of Natural Resources and the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. • Changes composition of the other seven members.

• One must have a background in soil conservation or reclamation; and • One must have a background in agricultural who is also a royalty owner. • SB 198 provides for monitoring coalbed methane seepage. Money is to be appropriated from the oil & gas conservation and environmental response fund. Money will be used to monitor seepage in Archuleta and La Plata counties. u HB 1252 clarifies the relationship between oil and gas operators and surface property owners. Basically, oil and gas operators have to minimize their impact where it is technologically sound, economically practicable, and reasonable to do so. If the oil and gas operator fails, then the property owner has a cause of action against them. u HB 1298, the Colorado Habitat Stewardship Act of 2007, states that it is in the public interest to manage oil and gas operations in a manner that balances wildlife conservation. The Oil and Gas Commission is directed to minimize adverse impacts to wildlife resources and consult with the Wildlife Commission.

• Three must be from the oil and gas industry, of which two shall have college degrees in petroleum geology or petroleum engineering; • One must be a local government official; • One must have a background in environmental or wildlife protection;

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Corn-Based Ethanol Recasts Water’s Role In the hubbub over ethanol’s new celebrity, one of the co-stars hasn’t received much attention.

Water. Growing corn and processing it into ethanol requires water, billions of gallons of it. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see this,” says Cornell University ecologist and ag scientist David Pimentel, referring to the amount of water it takes to grow, then process corn into biofuel. “Just put the numbers down.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture calculates Colorado growers planted approximately 25 percent more corn this year to satisfy the growing demand for corn to produce biofuel, created by fermenting the sugar in plants. Biofuel such as ethanol is emerging as an alternative to petroleumbased fuels like gasoline. As with all energy production, there’s a flip side, a tradeoff. Americans use roughly 400 million gallons of gasoline a day, according to the U.S. government, and about 60 percent of it is imported. Gas is the single largest petroleum product consumed. An acre of bioenergy crops – perennial grass, for instance – yields about 5 dry tons per acre, states the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. A dry ton, in turn, yields about 67 gallons with today’s technology, so a ton of bioenergy crops may equal about 335 gallons of ethanol. U.S. biofuel producers are able to only produce a fraction of what America demands. But every day someone is doing something. Farmers plant more corn, researchers experiment with different plants and processes, and people – citizens, activists and government officials – encourage change. Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Stulp says, though, that

Story by Lori Ozzello Front Range Energy, LLC has been producing ethanol at this Windsor Colorado location since May of 2006. Photos by Emmett Jordan.

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High corn prices have led to more acres being planted, including on marginal dryland fields traditionally planted to wheat near the Pawnee Grasslands in Northeast Colorado. Photos by Emmett Jordan. these are not “new acres,” but acreage farmers otherwise might have fallowed or planted with wheat or pinto beans. Some will even take their chances with dryland corn, sowing fewer plants per acre and hoping for enough rain to finish the crop.

According to Pimentel’s calculations, each gallon of ethanol requires 1,700 gallons of water to grow and process the corn. “Farmers will need mother nature’s help,” Stulp says. There is some risk associated with increasing irrigated and dryland acreage, but there’s also an opportunity for them to profit. Ethanol processing plants have been constructed in Windsor and Sterling. Smaller ones are operating at Coors in Golden and in Eads. Others are under 18

construction in Yuma and Walsh. Ethanol plants generally are located near cattle feedlots. Once the starches are extracted from the corn for use in the production of ethanol, the leftover mash is fed to cattle. Feedlots tend to be near railyards, another advantage for ethanol manufacturers since the biofuel cannot be piped like natural gas. Most companies transport biofuel by tanker or railcar. The corn required to produce ethanol is grown on the eastern plains, where average annual precipitation ranges from 8 to 14 inches. Depending on the type of corn grown, it may take twice that much water to supplement natural precipitation and finish the crop. The fermentation process also requires water. Not everyone, though, sees the action as a good thing. Pimentel has been an outspoken critic of corn ethanol since a Carter Administration task force he chaired, the Gasohol Group, found corn-based ethanol consumed more energy than it produced. Pimentel published a follow-up study in 2001. In the 2001 paper he reached the same conclusion. This riled critics who said his calculations were simply wrong and counter that ethanol produced a net gain of anywhere from 40 to160 percent. He says he is not opposed to biofuel, but he believes we need to improve the fermenting pro-

cesses and use plants that are not food crops and do not require irrigation. It takes 500,000 gallons of water to produce one acre of corn. “Whether it’s rain or irrigation, its water,” Pimentel says. According to Pimentel’s calculations, each gallon of ethanol requires 1,700 gallons of water to grow and process the corn. In a March 2007 survey, USDA economists forecast American farmers would plant 90.5 million acres of corn this year, a 15 percent increase. Using corn to feed the biofuel machinery instead of cattle, poultry, dairy, and pork industries means higher costs for farmers to feed animals and possibly diminished meat and poultry production. In Colorado, 10 eastern plains counties, not known for abundant rainfall, may produce more than 140 million bushels of corn if the additional 25 percent is factored in to past harvests. During 2005, the USDA reported the top five Colorado corn producing counties—Yuma, Kit Carson, Phillips, Morgan and Weld—produced 96.7 million bushels of corn alone. The next five brought in another 30.7 million. In a state where water is becoming more scarce and meeting new demands more difficult, why corn? ”We’ve traditionally grown corn in Colorado,” says Stulp. “Yuma County is

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Most corn is used as livestock feed, but also supplies more than half of all nutritive sweetner used in the United States. Corn is also used for starch, amino acids, antibiotics, oil, degradeable plastics, absorbents and many other products. The co-product from ethanol production can be mixed in cattle and swine rations.

Distiller’s grain from ethanol production is used as livestock feed. often No. 1 in the United States (in corn production), whether the price is high or low. Most of the corn goes into livestock feed. We’re a grain deficit state. No matter how much we grow, we’ve still got to import some from Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa.” For scientists in Golden, corn based ethanol “is seen by NREL as a stepping stone,” says George Douglas, spokesman for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. At the same time researchers are refining corn ethanol processes, they are experimenting with ethanol made from prairie grasses, fast growing trees, and wheat stubble, all plants that require less water to grow than corn. NREL also is charged with streamlining ethanol manufacturing. One way to do that is to find more productive yeasts to

break down the starches in corn or to find other ways to extract sugars. Currently the process uses enzymes to convert starches into simple sugars, and then yeast to ferment them into ethanol. Douglas says NREL and other labs, including Cornell and Oak Ridge, have had success in using steam and enzymes to break down cellulose, or hard-to-get sugars, in plant fiber. The steam can be condensed and the resulting water used again. NREL was initially established to research solar power in 1977. The Golden facility is now the only federal lab devoted exclusively to renewable energy research. Renewable energy has gotten a lot more attention since President Bush’s State of the Union address on Jan. 27, 2007. President Bush announced his Advanced Energy Initiative, along with requests for significant budget increases for biofuel research. Biofuel includes using corn, sugar cane and other plant matter to produce renewable energy. NREL is positioned to lead the effort and the state supports similar renewable energy efforts. In February, the Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, University of Colorado at Boulder and NREL signed an agreement at the state Capitol to develop renewable energy technology. First-year Gov.

Bill Ritter ran on a platform to promote renewable energy and is an advocate of the venture. Additionally, in the 2007 legislative session renewable energy was a central theme. Some scientists, agricultural economists and others have reservations about the current state of biofuel development. The relatively large amount of water and fossil fuels required in the manufacturing process concern them, and they question whether corn-based ethanol is part of a long-term energy solution. “It’s not going to make a huge dent,” admits NREL’s Douglas. In 2004, for example, 160 billion gallons of gasoline went to power Americans’ vehicles. “The most we can make from corn is 17 billion,” says Douglas, slightly more than 10 percent. New processes might make it possible to produce another 60 billion gallons, but that level of production may be years away. More efficient vehicles are also part of the solution. Douglas says he expects private industry to step in to take over biofuel production, much like it did in the early days of personal computers. Douglas sees parallels between renewable fuels and computers. “It takes—time and effort, to build up the technological base that’s necessary,”

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Jim McMillan, of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., explains the fermentation equipment at rear, used to produce cellulosic ethanol, a fuel made from agricultural waste. The lab hopes to reduce the overhead cost of producing the fuel, making it more economical. Photos by Kevin Moloney. Douglas says. “The tech path is similar.” And the critics? “Pimentel has very good questions to look at on land use and land use dedicated to fuel,” Douglas says. “Technology has unintended consequences.” A window of opportunity opened for the evolution of the technology, and the markets to produce renewable energy. The result: news almost every day of breakthroughs, advances, criticism or praise, differences from one lab to another, new techniques, investments, energy savings, corn market analyses and more. “We’re just now learning how to fracture and remix molecules,” Douglas says. “For 75 years the oil industry’s been very successful doing just that. Now we take sugars and do the same, make ethanol plants into bio refineries. We’re going to substitute sugar for petroleum. It’s just carbon and hydrogen rearranged.” “What remains to be seen is how well this does commercially.” Growth in the industry has changed agricultural and commodity markets and some say it may revitalize small towns where farming was fading. Stulp sees an improved profitability picture for the farm industry. A Yuma County native and Prowers County farmer and rancher himself, he believes it may signal other changes as well. For instance,

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during recent years, news of Front Range cities drying up farms for their water was not unusual. Stulp says that may change. “Farmers may be better able to hold on to their water,” he says. “Often they get into a situation where they have to sell.” However, increased farm profits associated with higher corn prices resulting from this new demand, may allow farmers to consider options other than selling their water to meet the needs of growing cities. At the same time, others question what impact the shifting biofuel trend will have on food production, and what the long-term changes in tillage practices, fertilizer use, increased acreage and crop rotations will have on the land. Even some of these questions, says Stulp, seem to be working themselves out. For example, the mash, a by-product from ethanol plants, is high in protein and can be used to feed livestock. Feedlots save on feed costs by locating facilities near ethanol plants and take advantage of this newly available protein rich food supply. Ethanol plants also are improving processes to recycle water. “It’s a rather remarkable new market for grain producers,” Stulp says. “It’s easy to pick them out of a crowd now. They have a smile.” q

Mike Himmel, of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., poses with a scanning electron microscope where distillation raw materials and the enzymes that reduce them to sugars are studied to advance ethanol production. At left is researcher Todd Vinzant.

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Produced Water Generates Doubts, Data, Discussion “It’s a long trip,” says Ken Valentine. Valentine is an engineer for a Pueblo steel company during the week and a seventh generation rancher on the weekends. In between, he meets with state, county and town officials plus his southeast Colorado neighbors. Valentine and his neighbors are intent on protecting their irrigation systems, land, crops, livestock and families from the effects of coalbed methane development in the Raton Basin.

Story by Lori Ozzello

Dan Valentine stands at the end of a culvert where water from Frio Spring runs alongside a pipe for pumping water from coalbed methane drilling. Photo by Michael Lewis.

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The 2,200 square mile basin straddles the Colorado-New Mexico line. It stretches across north Las Animas County into Huerfano County and at its widest is about 50 miles from east to west. According to a June 2004 Environmental Protection Agency study, coalbed methane resources in the basin are an estimated 10.2 trillion cubic feet. “Colorado in general has been very pro mineral development,” says Valentine. “Now we’re having problems with water, safety, and the environment. The state is working feverishly to repermit (the coalbed methane wells) to protect our irrigation systems.” The Valentine Ranch is just miles from the Ludlow Massacre site, north of Trinidad and west of Aguilar. The ranch reaches west toward the Sangre de Cristos and is home to elk, bear and deer in addition to the Valentines and their cattle. When snow socked the area in January and February, they left extra feed for the deer and elk. Valentine’s mother, a Las Animas County native, writer, and historian, is in her 62nd year on the ranch. His brother, Dan Valentine, takes care of day-to-day

rights. What the buyer may not get are mineral rights. What’s more: mineral rights supersede surface rights. If the mineral rights owners want to drill, they have the right. The two parties are supposed to work together to allow the mineral owners reasonable access for exploration and extraction, but surface owners can not block the development of the mineral resources by the mineral owners. “Our practice is to negotiate and compensate,” says Jerry Jacob, environmental and regulations manager for Pioneer Natural Resources, which has 1,800 wells in Las Animas County. Before Pioneer began drilling, the company used satellite photos to locate jeep trails and back roads. “We try to fit our operations to the disturbance that already exists. We used those (roads) and upgraded them to all weather before we built any others.” Coalbed methane, a form of natural gas, is found in coal deposits. Besides the Raton Basin, coalbed methane is found in Colorado and Utah’s San Juan Basin; Wyoming, Colorado and Utah’s Piceance Basin; Wyoming and Montana’s Powder

“Now we’re having problems with water, safety, and the environment. The state is working feverishly to re-permit (the coalbed methane wells) to protect our irrigation systems.” —Ken Valentine operations. His two daughters, pre-veterinary medicine students at Colorado State, are interested in someday running it. “I can’t see my heritage going down the river,” Valentine says. As concerns escalated about the effects of coalbed methane drilling, Valentine and others went into action, meeting, making phone calls, setting up Web sites, sharing information. Valentine says it’s hard for some in the two counties to speak up about the impacts of coalbed methane development because they depend on the oil companies for income. In Colorado, mineral rights, like water rights, are separate property rights. When a person purchases rural agricultural property they most likely also acquire the associated water 22

River Basin; and Wyoming’s Wind River and Southwestern basins. The United States Geological Survey says that coal typically stores more gas than any other kind of rock. Besides methane, the coal deposits also contain water, which must be pumped out or produced, before the methane can be extracted. According to the USGS, in 1998, the last year statistics were available, more than “579 million gallons of water were produced from Las Animas County methane wells.” That’s roughly equal to 1,776 acre feet. Unlike ground or surface water, who owns the rights to produced water is not yet settled. Therefore, some see the produced water as a possible source for additional water.

But others, like Colorado State University Extension Agent Dean Oatman and citizen groups in Las Animas and Huerfano counties, are skeptical and want as much data as possible about the possible effects of its extraction, use, and disposal. As the demand for natural gas increases, and the push intensifies to find additional domestic sources, companies will drill more wells, resulting in the pumping of even more produced water. There are proposals being considered to treat produced water for beneficial uses. Some individuals who live in coalbed methane production areas are concerned about the potential adverse impacts associated with the use of produced water but Pioneer spokeswoman Kimberly Mazza says some Las Animas County landowners want the water for stock ponds. Valentine doesn’t. “We’ve taken water samples off our system to get a baseline. There’s leakage out of the evaporation pits.” The mining companies are responsible for produced water’s disposal. Five state agencies, including two divisions of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, oversee the industry. “It’s quite a complicated picture,” explains Gary Beers. He is the industrial permits unit manager for CDPHE’s Water Quality Control Division. Well permits must be renewed every five years. “For the first three or four years, all the oil companies get is water. After that, the life of the project may be 10 to 20 years. One of the big issues is that these wells may go down six or seven thousand feet.” Beers said the wells are deeper than a farm well and the effects they have on the water table are still unclear. The produced water is only one of the issues that concern drilling opponents. The industry, says one state official, generally feels there is no movement between aquifers as a result of the drilling. Opponents disagree and suspect the methane may contaminate domestic wells and the drilling may lower water tables. Pioneer pays a third party lab about $500,000 per year to conduct and test water samples, including those taken from private wells. Jacob says Pioneer responds to a couple of complaints a month, pays for the testing and works with owners to alleviate problems whether they are a result of the oil company’s activities or not.

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Dan and Ken Valentine stand by the Apishapa River, which runs through their ranch. They are concerned coalbed methane development may jeopardize their ability to continue ranching. Photo by Michael Lewis.

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Beers explains that when coalbed methane was first developed, drilling was primarily in remote areas of the watershed. Discharge was generally into stock ponds or small streams and as long as the discharge met state water quality standards, this practice was allowed. “We had TDS (total dissolved solids) that cattle could handle,” says Beers. “Now, as the drilling has moved down the watershed, those wells are still under permit and (companies) are discharging more, changing the streambeds.” Pioneer’s Jacob said the company doesn’t discharge into the Apishipa or Purgatoire rivers, and that Pioneer “is quite aware of the issues.” Instead, water that meets discharge standards is released into tributaries or dry arroyos, where it mixes with surface water or evaporates. The chemistry of the produced water can affect not only the soil, but the plants grown in it. Produced water may be high in salts such as sodium

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and magnesium. The salts change the soil’s traits and plants may simply not be able to absorb the water. Oatman described one Huerfano County farmer who diverted water from the Cuchara River last summer after an oil company had discharged produced water into a dry riverbed. The farmer is downstream and diverted the water for irrigation. Oatman said the man’s irrigated corn was wilting and irrigation water stood in the rows. The soil and plants couldn’t soak it up. Discharges in other areas of the Raton Basin are also under watch. Oatman says one company discharges water south of Aguilar into the Purgatoire River. “The (produced) water is diluted enough that there is no negative impact on water quality,” Oatman says. “The temperature is hot, though.” Small farmers, Beers says, have experienced crop troubles. “We’re looking at information from Colorado State, water quality specialists and water rights holders,” Beers said.

“We need additional limits to protect the water. Salinity is a major issue in every river basin in the state.” Says Oatman: “And, there’s no money to do testing to find out” how extensive salinity might be in the Raton Basin. Oatman points out that there is some discharge flowing into Trinidad Lake, but none flowing out. “Are inorganics going to congregate in the lake? Kill fish? Is there going to be an algae bloom?” Oatman wonders. “It won’t happen in a year. There’s no way to guess the time line or the effect.” “It’s not about anyone doing anything wrong. It’s about minimizing the impact to the environment. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to take everyone, including the oil companies coming to the table.” Over the next few months, Beers and his team will work to determine the parameters, such as chemistry and toxicity, they’ll use to re-permit the wells.

Co ol lo or ra ad do o f fo ou un nd da att ii o on n f fo or r W W a att e er r E E d du uc ca att ii o on n C


They’ll consider whether some of the produced water can be blended to reach permissible limits for discharge. Then they’ll decide what exactly to regulate before renewing permits. “Coalbed methane companies want to help out to a certain extent,” Beers says, “but they want justification.” Looking out for the environment is “part of our mission,” says Pioneer Natural Resources spokeswoman Kimberly Mazza. “We have no problem with state regulations, but we want consistency.” Beers says renewing the permits comes down to three things: the regulatory framework, the amount of water discharged, and the water quality. Although Beers would like to put into place testing, analysis, and regulations that would address more questions, the permitting work is only part of his and his staff’s job. “We’d like to do more, but we just don’t have the staff. I have six or seven permit writers, and this is just part of their jobs.” q

State Engineer’s Office Plans to Appeal Court Decision The State Engineer’s Office plans to appeal a water court decision that could affect water permitting and coalbed methane operations across the state. In Durango, Judge Gregory Lyman ruled for ranchers who sued BP America and the State Engineer over a Colorado policy. Under it, gas and oil producers are allowed to treat produced water, a mining byproduct, as waste. “We’ve never permitted these structures before,” says assistant state engineer Dick Wolfe. “It’s not like the Empire Lodge case where we already had a process in place and the workload changed. “We’ve been working on this issue since at least 1999.” The ranchers, William and Elizabeth Vance and James and Mary Theresa Fitsgerald, from Archuleta and La Plata counties, respectively, filed the case in 2005, arguing the methane producers’ groundwater depletions could injure

the ranchers’ senior water rights. “Their concern was the coalbed methane on their property was going to affect their senior decreed tributary water rights,” explains Sarah Klahn, the ranchers’ attorney. “We didn’t bring the case alleging they’d been injured. Coalbed methane is usually found with large quantities of water. We went to the State Engineer’s office two years ago and asked them to (permit) the wells. They decided they didn’t have to.” According to the state’s statistics, there are 3,909 coalbed methane wells in Colorado. Of the total, 1,994 are in the Raton Basin; 1,836 in the San Juan Basin; and 79 in the Piceance Basin. Lyman’s decision came shortly before the State Engineer’s release of studies on the Piceance and Raton basins. Both Wolfe and Klahn say they expect legislators to take up the issue in 2008.

Our neighboring state, Wyoming, is looking for ways to place produced waters to beneficial use. Here, rancher Orin Edwards scoops water from a discharge pipe linked to several methane wells along the Belle Fourche river near Gillette, Wyo. Tiny bubbles of gas give the water a cloudy appearance. Millions of gallons of water are pulled from below-ground coal seams to extract the gas, causing water disposal concerns and possibly emptying aquifers. Photo by Kevin Moloney.

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s!

tion a l u t a r g Con

Colorado Students Write Winning Water Poems Each year Colorado Humanities, through its Center for the

Talking Trees

Book, hosts the Colorado River of Words award ceremony for

Trees talk All the time They yell They whisper They even rhyme When they’re mad They blow their leaves Sometimes they let out a deep s-i-g-h They tell the truth They even lie.

Colorado’s young poets. Students from kindergarten through high school are eligible to submit their water and environmental poems to the national River of Words contest by Feb. 15 of each year. The poems are judged with those from all the other states in the Union. Colorado entrants’ poems are then sent back to Colorado Humanities for the state judging. This year, Colorado students submitted more than 400 poems. The Colorado award winners are judged by award-winning poet Kathryn Winograd and Justice Greg Hobbs, vice-president of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education.

Erin Kopal National Poetry Finalist Grade 5, West Woods Elementary Jennifer Arzberger, Teacher Arvada, Colorado

Here are the 2007 Colorado winning poems reprinted with permission of Colorado Humanities. Congratulations to the poets, their parents and teachers! Kathryn Winograd’s on line 5-unit course, Teaching the Poetry of Rivers, is available at http://www.ceh.org/ccftb/index.html

Hiss It’s the hiss of fire and water meeting. The sound that sends birds to the air. The sound that startles the woodland. The sound that sends the largest bear to the farthest tree. A once calm riverbank is engulfed in flames. The birds return days later to find a riverbank in ruins. Surprisingly the river still runs. So do the creatures’ spirits. John Davies-Schley National Poetry Finalist Age 9, Individual Entry Jenny Davies-Schley, Parent Denver

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Is There a Place to Rest My Soul? As snow flake stars fall through my scars; As dusk grows restless and valleys get wide; Winds get heavy and souls go hard, living through nightmares. Is there love, is there hope Is there light in this unraveling loophole? Crystal Schwaigert National Poetry Finalist Grade 6, Mrachek Middle School Linda Johnson, Teacher Aurora

The Forest A clear open space through the pine trees. Sunset rising over the mountains, through the hills. Birds gliding in the fresh blue air. I can smell the fresh pine trees that swallow the bulging wind. Birds singing. Lumps of silver gold and purplish red, ice lumps. Rain trickling down the old oak tree. Winds sweeping up old spider webs. Bark tearing through the wind. It is now light, dark is gone. I can see the bluebirds. The tiger-eye. Now all animals roll through the sparking rain puddles. Kiara Cottrell 1st Place, Level I Grade 2, Slate River School Amelia Jervey, Teacher Crested Butte

C o l o r a d o f o u n d a t i o n f o r W a t e r E d u c a t i o n


I Am A Mountain Stream

Building its force, as more creeks join the chorus, The river dances its way down.

I am a mountain stream. I tumble twist and fall. I roll down the mountains. I unfold as I go. I grow shallow, I grow deep, I may grow rough, Or I may turn still, I am a part of nature, For I am the mountain stream.

This river, the mighty Rio Grande, Pushes down, into the San Luis valley, Being diverted into the canals, To raise the valleys livelihood, But the heart of the river keeps beating. Anglers walk the banks along, And thru the shallows In pursuit of the wily fish Who thrive in the flowing lair.

I go into a river. It is a part of me. I go into a thalweg, Happy as can be. My flow may turn into waves. The fish are like blood within me. For I am the river.

Down, down into New Mexico, Into the land of enchantment, More of its flow enchanted away, Into orchards with sweet, fresh fruit laden. Cutting the south features of the Texas border, Sharing its wealth between (Texas and Mexico), Getting depleted—the only water in a parched land—as it moves along, The river struggles with all it has left towards its goal;

After awhile, I become vast and wide. I can bring out tsunamis, Or I can be as calm as can be. Now my blood is very salty. For I am the ocean.

But manmade folly has long from since Given the Rio Grande power to flow All but a muddy trickle— To the Gulf of Mexico.

Now I turn into a mist. Carried in the clouds. My thunder may growl with rage And fierce lightning break the sky. Or I can be a blanket of spay Falling in the mountains. For I am the rain.

Forrest Getz 1st Place, Level III Grade 8, Home Schooled Virginia Getz, Teacher Creede

Again I am gathered into a mountain stream. Ready to begin my journey once again. Ryland Mahre 1st Place, Level II Grade 4, Pomona Elementary School Judy Golden, Teacher Grand Junction

The Consistence of Sand The flaccid branches harden to twist like briar. Yet how the trees, how they look tired. The ever-pressing weight that such things hold, Maintain a likeness, to all our souls.

A River’s Journey

Will we succumb to the buildings of man? All things strain under the consistence of sand. Uncertainty, frailty indeed. Do we need much more? There are wings that sing, beyond closed doors.

Out of the snow bank little droplets of water fall, Entwining together, they start to flow, Creeping, seeping, twisting their way down the mountainside, They join the others; begin swelling in size, A steady rush down the canyon.

In the absence of these doors, there are doorways. Open to sight, and meant to be seen, Open to the light, and those that deem, Nothing can touch the tranquility of this place.

As creeks join in, the river is amplified, Roaring louder and louder. Until -- all at once -- everything is calm; A great expanse of still water—reflecting the mountains around.

Tepid water, fills all voids, Yet doesn’t remain calm, avoids stagnancy. When we begin to drink water, like our wine, We shall see the beauty of being.

A great wall, plugging the flow, All but a place, where the water rushes thru, And making its way again,

Our world, so unlike the fallacious land that rings, The stout sound of the discordant television screens.

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Past the innumerable windows, the umpteenth doors, Lies our pending caprice, the prospect of something more. Justin Marshall 1st Place, Level IV Grade 11, Roaring Fork High School Suzanne Stutler-Windmueller, Teacher Carbondale

At Night At night the sun faints away. As the moon floats up like the dove that glides. Birds go glittering across the sky as lights go off. Rivers stay calm, crickets chirp, fires flitter down. Count to ten It’s morning, the sun comes gliding up as the moon falls to the ground. Birds come up, lights go on, rivers are splashing and crickets hop. Fires crackle. Count to ten It’s dark like a hawk.

Quiet Snow is falling. everything is covered in a blanket of white. No noises are made, no animals in sight. The sun slowly fades away. I feel as if I’m walking in a field of pillows. Everything is so calm as if the forest went to sleep. A tree wakes up shakes off all the white snow. A river quietly runs through the forest, sneaks by the trees. Duncan Loza 2nd Place, Level III Grade 7, Good Shepherd Catholic School Linda Keller, teacher Denver

Starry Life

Birch Davis 2nd Place, Level I Grade 2, Individual Entry Raemon Davis, Parent Crested Butte

Many the stars in the heavens lofty halo As the questions suspended within Sky drawn tight with eyelids of night Shut tight in the latent din.

River Speaks I am the water under your boat, I am the fresh crisp substance the children ripple their hands in, I am the lily pad that supports the frog, Beauty you cannot find the words to express, I am the Mother Nature that lets creators swim and drink from my banks, I am the current carrying all leaves that gently wander down into my waters, I am the sight token in vacation pictures, quench to your thirst, I am the water you stir in your tea, the flavor with in, I am the very one river life calls home, I am like a beautiful butterfly yet to emerge, Sixty percent liquid keeping you alive, I rush down the path to freedom, I splash my waves and it is music to your ears and harmony to your heart, I am not only a river I am you.

Eclipsing the crescent inside Is ever the expanse with out The soul doth bide a darkness tide Rinsing away the drought. Thin bands of theology aloft Necklace of stars twirling round Spiraling out in a life set shining Peace wet with crying to be found. Teardrops twinkling down murky cheek Nebulous benchmark high Thus leans the lustrous orb of night Which life is measured by. Jacob Waller 2nd Place, Level IV Grade 11, Arapahoe High School Marlys Ferrill, Teacher Centennial

Brianna States 2nd Place, Level II Grade 4, High Plains Elementary School Kim Snowdon, Teacher Colorado Springs

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C o l o r a d o f o u n d a t i o n f o r W a t e r E d u c a t i o n


Thank you to all those who make possible the work of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education Endowing Partner

Colorado Water Conservation Board Charter Members Aurora Water; Bureau of Reclamation; CO Water Resources & Power Development Authority; Colorado River Water Conservation District; Coors Brewing Company; MWH; Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District; Southwestern Water Conservation District; Ute Water Conservancy District Pioneer Members Board of Water Works of Pueblo; Colorado Farm Bureau; Denver Water; Metro Wastewater Reclamation District; Rio Grande Water Conservation District; The Consolidated Mutual Water Company; Triview Metropolitan District

Sustaining Members Applegate Group; Castle Pines North Metropolitan District; CDM Camp Dresser and McKee; City of Grand Junction Utilities; City of Thornton Water Resources; Colorado Springs Utilities; Douglas County Community Development; Orchard Mesa Irrigation District; Porzak Browning & Bushong; Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite; Summit County Board of Commissioners; Suncor Energy (USA); Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District; White & Jankowski, LLP

Associate Members Aqua Engineering, Inc; Arkansas River Outfitters Association; Ayres Associates; Black & Veatch Corporation; Centennial Water & Sanitation District; Center Conservation District; Collins, Cockrel & Cole, PC; Colorado Livestock Association; Colorado Water Resources Research Institute; Delta Conservation District; Delta County; Duncan, Ostrander & Dingess, P.C.; Gregory J. Hobbs, Jr; Hydro Construction Co, Inc; Krassa & Miller, LLC; Leonard Rice Engineers; Middle Park Water Conservancy District; Patty Stulp; Platte Canyon Water & Sanitation District; Roxborough Park Metro District; St Vrain & Left Hand Water Cons District; Steven Acquafresca; Tricia Nichols; Wheatland Electric Cooperative; Y-W Electric Assoc, Inc

Wateshed Members Anderson & Chapin, P.C.; Anschutz Family Foundation; Bishop-Brogden Associates; City of Westminster; Craig Sommers; Dale Mitchell; Daniel Tyler; Dean & Gigi Dennis; Deere & Ault Consultants, Inc; Don Ament; Douglas County Open Space; Eagle River Watershed Council Inc.; Fallenius Family; Four Corners Materials; Gregory Hoskin; Gunnison Water Workshop; Huerfano County Water Conservancy District; Jack McCormick; Jody Williams; Lutin Curlee Family Partnership, Ltd.; Meurer & Associates, Inc.; PS Systems, Inc.; Reagan Waskom; RHN Water Resources Consultants LLC; San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District; Scott Hummer & Sally Roscoe; Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District; Tri-Star Masonry Inc.; USDA Forest Service

Individual Members Allyn Brown; Ann M. Brad; AWWA, Rocky Mountain Section; Barbara Horn; Bloomin—Planned Outdoor Environments; Bob Wardlaw; Boulder County Parks & Open Space; Boyle Engineering Corp; Brad Bradway; Bruce Kroeker; Burry Ranch; Carl Bachhuber; Carl Trick II; Case Ranch; CDMarsh Soil & Water; Charles McKay; Chris Reichard; Chuck Wanner; City of Boulder Water Quality & Environmental Serv; City of Durango; City of Fruita; Clay & Dodson, P.C.; Cliff Inbau; Clifford Hoelscher; Collins Ranch Co, Inc; Colorado Department of Local Affairs; Colorado Land Investments; Colorado Water Officials Association; Colorado Water Trust; Colorado Water Workshop; Conejos Water Conservancy District; Connie Peterson; Curry Rosato; Daniel L. Ritchie; David & Linda Overlin; David A. Reinertsen; David Bailey; David Batts; David Bernhardt; David Berry; David Hallford; David Nelson; David Nickum; Deborah Hathaway; Delbert M. Smith; Dick Unzelman; Dick Wolfe; Don Cummins; Donald Schwindt; Douglas Shriver; Drew Peternell; Dry West Nursery; Duane Woodard LLC; Elaine Davis; Elbert County Environmental Health; Ellen Robinson; Enlarged Southside Irrigation Ditch; Environmental Process Control; Evans Group, LLC; Fairfield & Woods, PC; Ferdinand Hagden Chapter, Trout Unlimited; Frank Anesi; Fred Wolf; Friends of the Animas River; GBSM; GEO-Graphics; Geo-Smith Engineering, LLC; Grand Junction Drainage District; Grand Valley Ranger District; Gretchen Cerveny; Harold Miskel; Harvest Farm (Denver Rescue Mission); High Line Canal Preservation Association; High Plains A&M; Inverness Water & Sanitation District; J. T. Pickarts; Jack Fox; Jack Perrin; Jay & Dori Van Loan; Jean Anderson; Joel Davidow; John & Susan Maus; John Porter; Jord Gertson; Julio Iturreria; Katryn Leone; Kim J. Koehn; Lambert Realty; Larry Morgan; Lawrence J. MacDonnell; Lee Stierwalt; Lewis H. Entz Farms; Luther & Jolene Stromquist; Mark & Sara Hermundstad; Marvin Kembel; Mary Miller; McCarty Land & Water Valuation; Megan Estep; Melvin Rettig; Merrick & Company; Merrill Anderson & Harris; Michelle DeLaria; Mike Davis; Nancy Porter; National Park Service Black Canyon/Curecanti; New Consolidated Lower Boulder Res & Ditch Co; Northgate Co.; Oldham - Kent Equities; Patricia Locke; Patrick Lawler; Patrick, Miller & Kropf, PC; Paul Harms; Paula Daukas; Peggy Ford; Penny Lewis; Pete Crabb; Pete Gunderson; Pine Valley Realty; Rick Sackbauer; Rita Crumpton; RJH Consultants Inc; Roaring Fork Conservancy; Rob Pearson; Robert Ward; Round Mountain Water & Sanitation District; Russell Kemp; Russell Waring; San Juan WCD & Pagosa Area W&S District (2 member); Scott Williams; Sean Chambers; Security Title Guaranty Co.; Senn Visciano Kirschenbaum P.C.; Sharon Bokan; Silverlined Productions; South Reservation Ditch Company; Southeastern Land and Environment; State Representative Frank McNulty; States West Water; Susan Andrews; Tanya Unger Holtz; Taylor Hawes; Terry Morris; The Hudson Gardens; The Tisdel Law Firm, PC; The Wangnild Real Estate Company; Tillie Bishop; Tom Farber; Tom Sharp; Tomlinson & Associates; Town of Aguilar; Town of Breckenridge Water Division; Town of Fraser; Town of Telluride Public Works Dept; Town of Windsor; Treatment & Technology Inc; Tri-County Water Conservancy District; Troy Bauder; TST Infrastructure, LLC; Ueblacker Associates; Vranesh & Raisch, LLP; W. D. Farr; Walter I Knudsen Jr; Washington Group International, Inc; Weld County Underground Water Users Assn; WestWater Engineering; William & Donna Patterson; William Hendrickson; Wyoming Water Association

Student Members Debbie Wagner; Deserai Crow; Jason Crow; Nicolai Kryloff; Robin Magelky; Terry Young

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Colorado Foundation for Water Education

Citizen’s Guides

The Colorado Foundation for Water Education is pleased to announce the newest addition to the Citizen’s Guide series, Citizen’s Guide to Denver Basin Groundwater. This publication, along with all of the other CFWE publications and membership information, is available at cfwe.org, or by calling 303-377-4433.

1580 Logan St., Suite 410 • Denver, CO 80203

Citizen’s Guides: Colorado Water Law, Colorado Water Quality Protection, Colorado’s Water Heritage, Where Your Water Comes From, Colorado Water Conservation, Colorado’s Environmental Era

Profile for Water Education Colorado

Winter/Spring 2007 Energy Issue  

This Headwaters Magazine explores the relationship of water to energy production. Much remains to be learned about the effects of energy dev...

Winter/Spring 2007 Energy Issue  

This Headwaters Magazine explores the relationship of water to energy production. Much remains to be learned about the effects of energy dev...

Profile for cfwe