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June 26th, 2012

Amidst Fire and Drought in Colorado, a City’s Worth of Water is Going Where?

By Katherine BoehrerBan Fracking!

In Colorado, drought conditions and the worst wildfire season in a decade have brought renewed focus on water budgeting in the state. A new report by Western Resource Advocates (WRA) highlights community concerns about the impact of fracking on Colorado’s water supply. The study found that water used in one year for new oil and gas development throughout the state could supply the entire population of Lakewood, the fourth-largest city in Colorado.

Though oil and gas companies often point out that water used for fracking is a small percentage of that used for agriculture and municipal purposes statewide, in certain counties it can be much more. According to the report, in Weld County, water used for new oil and gas drilling operations equaled between one-third and two-thirds of domestic and public water use in 2011.

Weld County and other area farmers now face extreme water shortages from ongoing drought conditions, requiring them to remove hundreds of acres from production. Nearby cities can’t help because many have already auctioned off all of the water they had allotted for sale to agricultural users and oil and gas companies.

Enormous wildfires are also taking a toll on the state’s water resources. A huge amount of water is being used to combat the eight blazes burning in Colorado. Making matters worse, water infrastructure, including reservoirs and treatment plants, may become contaminated with ash from these wildfires, causing shutdowns and requiring emergency water supplies to be tapped.

Considering the water situation in Colorado this summer, it’s no wonder WRA is concerned about the vast quantity of water used for fracking. Not only does fracking take water away from other potential uses, much of the water used for fracking is gone forever – at least we hope it doesn’t find its way into aquifers and contaminate them! A lot of the fluid used in fracking stays underground indefinitely, and in Colorado the fluid that does return to the surface as wastewater often gets disposed of using deep well injection, locking it in the ground for good (we hope).

States such as Colorado have a choice when allocating their water resources. Water should go to local farmers and firefighters battling drought conditions, not to the oil and gas industry.

Coloradans can take action today to protect their water resources. Sign this petition to tell Governor Hickenlooper to ban fracking in Colorado, then show your support for our national campaign here

Katherine Boehrer is a Food & Water Watch summer communications intern and a junior at Cornell University.  

5 Comments on Amidst Fire and Drought in Colorado, a City’s Worth of Water is Going Where?

  1. sally mason says:

    it would be helpful if you investigated the impact of wildfires devouring acreage dotted with gas & oil wells. I lived in the Durango-Cortez area for 13 years. Those wells do leak. Methane does seep. People were killed by explosions. Imagine how that can fuel wildfires.

  2. Jenya Romanovsky says:

    Where’s your conscience, gov, eh?

  3. Oil companies have gained control over billions of gallons of water from Western rivers in preparation for future efforts to extract oil from shale deposits under the Rocky Mountains, according to a new report by an environmental group that opposes such projects.
    The group, Western Resource Advocates, used public records to conclude that energy companies are collectively entitled to divert more than 6.5 billion gallons of water a day during peak river flows. The companies also hold rights to store, in dozens of reservoirs, 1.7 million acre feet of water, enough to supply metro Denver for six years. — Wall Street Journal, writen before the fracking boom. Oil, Water Are Volatile Mix in West

  4. Donald Elson says:

    Directly (arson)or indirectly (methane leakage) the oil & gas mafia have taken over Colorado.
    Unlimited greed does not care if people bleed. When will Americans learn that criminal minds have only one aim: the ruthless, merciless, tireless lust for MORE of what you own. As Woody Guthrie did not write: ‘This land is their land, it is not your land . . .’ They’ll frack the life out of you. God Save America.

  5. therese gilbert says:

    This situation is truly unfortunate, and will require educating the public on the need to curtail water use for this industry. O&G companies are allowed to purchase ground water rights as well as tributary rights, and the current water law does not connect these two accesses as part of the same hydro cycle. I am desperately trying to educate myself on this and it is daunting. I doubt that many policy makers touting this new industry truly understand that lasting environmental impact of truning fresh water into “solid waste” as it is described by spokesmen for the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission.

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