Water For Energy: Challenges to Produced Water Reuse

HW 32 coversmallThe water required for oil and gas production is a hot topic in Colorado, and nationwide. We took a close look at it last fall in The Energy Issue of Headwaters magazine, exploring Colorado’s energy mix, oil and gas drilling, and the water market for power and energy. And although, compared to state-wide water usage, water for oil and gas only accounts for a small amount (as of 2011, the Division of Water Resources estimated that .47 percent of the state’s water withdrawals went to thermoelectric power generation; .03 percent to coal, natural gas, uranium and solar development; and .04 percent to hydraulic fracturing), in our water-limited state, where the energy industry could continue growing, players are competing for the same water. Reusing water and produced water is improving every year, and could make the water demands of the oil and gas industry less of a concern.  From Caitlin Coleman’s Headwaters article, Power in the Marketplace:

For oil and gas, recycling and reuse of water are improving. On the Western Slope, Encana recycles more than 95 percent of water used for or produced during drilling– this waste water cycles through the company’s four water treatment plants and is piped through a 300-mile network of pipelines to reach wells where it’s reused for hydraulic fracturing. Each barrel of water is reused an average of 1.33 times before disposal, says Encana spokesman Doug Hock.

“Everybody talks about what can we [the oil and gas industry] do to save water, and we’re doing it,” says Doug Flanders, director of policy and external affairs for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. “We’re becoming more efficient with our water, we’re recycling more water, we’re doing everything.”

Others say the industry could still do better, arguing that the state’s current deep well injection rate of 51 percent of contaminated drilling waste fluids removes a substantial amount of water entirely from the water cycle.

The Produced Water Reuse Initiative: Rocky Mountains will be held October 29-30 in Denver and recently conducted an industry poll to determine the biggest obstacles to reusing produced water. These were the results:

Many conference sessions are linked to these specific topics that are of concern to those who deal with water in the oil and gas industry, and as the report, displaying poll results says, “reusing produced water helps relieve the burden on fresh water and on the environment.” Of course, fresh water is important to all Coloradans and all industries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Colorado’s Transbasin Diversions: Perspectives

“The interesting thing about all of these tunnels is you look through them and you can see a pinpoint of light at the end,” says Wayne Vanderschuere, the general manager for water and wastewater planning at Colorado Springs Utilities.  Vanderschuere was talking about transbasin diversion tunnels.

Participants on the Colorado Foundation for Water Education's transbasin diversion tour hear from Lynn Brooks with the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District beside the outlet of the Homestake Tunnel near Turquoise Reservoir.

Participants on the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s transbasin diversion tour hear from Lynn Brooks with the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District beside the outlet of the Homestake Tunnel near Turquoise Reservoir.

The Colorado Foundation for Water Education returned from our transbasin diversion tour last week, exploring the Fryingpan-Arkansas, Twin Lakes, and Homestake projects with experts and a great group of about 30 tour participants from different organizations, interests and geographical locations. Find photos here.  We heard about and saw the sights and workings of these important and major water diversion projects. Reporter, Dennis Webb with the Grand Junction Sentinel joined us and, in an article published this week, wrote:

Those interests met in the middle here last week, at this point where the Ewing Ditch crosses the Continental Divide, on a transbasin diversion tour presented by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education. It was a chance to consider the past of water development in Colorado while also pondering its future. And where better to look back at the history of transbasin diversions than at Ewing Ditch, the oldest diversion of Western Slope water to the Eastern Slope?

This straightforward, unassuming dirt conduit seemingly defies gravity, diverting water from Eagle River tributary Piney Gulch just a short walk from Tennessee Pass, and just high enough up the gulch that the water can follow a contoured course crossing basins and head into the Arkansas River Valley.

“It’s simple, but I love simplicity. It fits my mind,” Alan Ward, water resources manager with the Pueblo Board of Water Works, joked about the ditch, which the utility bought in 1955.

Buried in Snow

Alan Ward stands at the Ewing Ditch headgate,

Alan Ward with the Pueblo Board of Water Works stands at the Ewing Ditch headgate.

It was built in 1880 and also is called the Ewing Placer Ditch, which Ward believes suggests early use of the water in mining.

As transbasin diversions go, it’s a minuscule one, delivering up to 18.5 cubic feet per second, or an average of about 1,000 acre-feet in a year. It diverts about five square miles of melt-off from snowpack that can leave the ditch buried beneath 10 to 20 feet of snow in the winter. David Curtis is in charge of clearing that snow and maintaining and operating the ditch during the seven months out of each year that he works out of Leadville as a ditch rider for the utility.

The utility says Ewing Ditch is about three-quarters of a mile long.

“I think it’s a little longer,” Curtis said, adding that at least it seems that way when he and others are busy clearing spring snow.

A chartered bus delivered more than two dozen tour participants to view the ditch, including Boulder County resident Joe Stepanek. He found last week’s two-day tour to be highly informative. He’s interested in Colorado’s history of water development, and is retired from a U.S. Agency for International Development career that had him traveling abroad.

“I come back and join this water tour and learn a lot about Colorado,” he said.

Sonja Reiser, an engineer with CH2M HILL in Denver, likewise was finding the tour to be eye-opening.

“I’m learning so much about how complicated Colorado water law is,” she said as the tour bus moved on from this tiny diversion point to the outlet of the five-mile-long Homestake Tunnel, which goes under the Continental Divide from Homestake Reservoir in Eagle County and is capable of delivering a much more massive 800 cubic feet per second to help meet municipal needs in Colorado Springs and Aurora.

CFWE published the new Citizen's Guide to Colorado's Transbasin Diversions last month. flip through or order your copy .

CFWE published the new Citizen’s Guide to Colorado’s Transbasin Diversions last month. flip through or order your copy.

Read another tour participant’s impressions and thoughts from the tour on the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments’ Water Quality and Quantity Blog.

For me, just being around the diversions was exciting. Only a month ago, CFWE released it’s newest publication, the Citizen’s Guide to Colorado’s Transbasin Diversions–  I wrote much of it. After reading about these projects, pouring over maps trying to understand collection and distribution systems and working with the Division of Water Resources to determine how much water flows through these projects, I was seeing some of them, and hearing about them again.

The guide explores the history, negotiations and future of water supply planning in Colorado. It’s a lot of information condensed into 32 pages and drawn largely from other great resources including the three books and author perspectives found at the end of the guide. And it comes at an important time, as the draft of Colorado’s Water Plan collecting input and nearing completion, water supply and the history of water supply planning in Colorado are particularly relevant. But what didn’t make it in the guide, primarily because it is a reference guide and there was an abundance of other content, were the many great interviews I conducted with water managers, leaders, planners, advocates and others about projects all across the state. The tour brought life to the Citizen’s Guide, just like those interviews, as will our upcoming webinar series (more about that two paragraphs down).

These are such important stories, and interesting people who told them,  so CFWE will be publishing excerpts from those interviews here on the blog. If you have a piece of the story that needs to be told, or wish we spoke with someone different, let us know– we welcome additional posts.  Stay posted for a great series of interviews and additional transbasin diversion programming.

If you want to hear from experts yourself, register for one or all of our upcoming transbasin diversion webinars, hosted in partnership with Colorado Water Congress. The first of the series will be held on November 12 from 9-10 am on the Technical, Political and Environmental Requirements of Transbasin Diversions. Learn more and find out how to register here.

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Havey Productions Kick Starts The Great Divide…

Final funding for feature documentary to be raised through grassroots campaign

Havey Productions' Great Divide film on water in Colorado will debut in Spring 2015.

Havey Productions’ Great Divide film on water in Colorado will debut in Spring 2015. Final funding for the film will be raised through a Kickstarter campaign. View the campaign and film trailer here.

Havey Productions announced in early September that final funding for The Great Divide, a feature length documentary on the history of water in Colorado, will be raised through a grassroots Kickstarter campaign. The campaign kicked off September 8, but there’s still time to contribute! The Great Divide will raise public understanding and appreciation of Colorado’s water heritage while inspiring personal responsibility and informed discussion concerning the vital challenge confronting the state and region with increasing urgency — forging collaborative solutions for managing this most precious resource for a prosperous and sustainable future.

The Great Divide from the Emmy award winning team of Havey Productions, in association with Colorado Humanities, will illustrate the timeless influence of water in both connecting and dividing an arid state and region. From Ancestral Puebloan cultures and the gold rush origins of Colorado water law to agriculture, dams, diversions and conservation; the film will reveal today’s critical need to cross “the great divide,” replacing conflict with cooperation.

Millions of people, billions of dollars and an enormous amount of economic activity are all dependent on rivers born in the mountains of Colorado. The Department of Natural Resources predicts that Colorado’s population will double by 2050 .

“The information in this film needs to be heard now, and with a statewide tour of Colorado screenings in partnership with the Colorado Tourism Office, 9News as our media sponsor and PBS broadcasts throughout the west – it will be heard,” director Jim Havey said. “We’ve been raising money from the water community in Colorado for the past year and they have responded generously, representing a broad base of support.  With the public’s help through this Kickstarter campaign, we will meet matching grant requirements and complete the fundraising.”

Timing is everything, and Havey Production’s goal is to have a complete film in the Spring of 2015, in advance of  Colorado new State Water Plan. A diverse group of sponsors throughout Colorado are already contributing to the production, including, the Colorado Office of Film Television & Media,  the Gates Family Foundation, Poudre Heritage Alliance,  Denver Water, Colorado River District, Northern Water, Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, Colorado Water Conservation Board,  Linda Boden, Colorado Water Resources & Power Development Authority, Molson Cooors, City of Greeley, Hydro Resources, Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, Republican River Water Conservation District, Rio Grande Water Conservation District, Upper Gunnison River Conservancy District, Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, Deere & Ault Consultants, Inc., Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District, Southeastern Water Conservation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, History Colorado, Consolidated Mutual Water, Northwest Council of Governments, Tri-County Water Conservancy District, Water Information Program(WIP), American Rivers, City of Fort Collins, Colorado Parks & Wildlife, Colorado Water Trust, The Nature Conservancy, Hendricks Financial Services, Bancroft-Clover Water & Sanitation District, Delores Water Conservancy District, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, San Luis Valley Irrigation District, San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District, Trout Unlimited, Platte Canyon Water & Sanitation District, Southwest Metro Water & Sanitation District. 9News–KUSA-TV is the media sponsor and PBS stations throughout the west will air the completed film.

Havey Productions produces emotionally rich and uniquely powerful films that inspire audiences to act. The Emmy Award-winning team has produced many films on the people, places and stories of Colorado and the American West including Centennial Statehouse: Colorado’s Greatest Treasure, Union Station: Portal to Progress and Molly Brown: Biography of a Changing Nation.

To contribute to this Kickstarter campaign, or to learn more about The Great Divide, please visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/haveypro/the-great-divide

 

 

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In Praise of Wastewater Managers

August is National Water Quality month.  This Sunday, August 31 is the 160th anniversary of the outbreak of one of the worst cholera epidemics to hit London – an epidemic that ultimately led to the identification of contaminated water as a conduit for the disease.

Humans have always sought sources of drinking water, and some water clearly looks and tastes better.  But we didn’t always understand that the wrong water could make us sick.

Where Does Your Water Come From?

Before I came to CFWE, I worked as a historical interpreter.  Whether wearing pioneer or Civil War-era dress, I always got the same question – “Don’t you wish you lived back then?”  And my answer was always no.  When asked why I prefer the present, the first thing on my list is always indoor plumbing.

Jennie Geurts before she joined CFWE - the clothes were pretty, but the water quality could be deadly.

Jennie Geurts before she joined CFWE – the clothes were pretty, but the water quality could be deadly.

Today, we usually take clean drinking water and sanitation systems for granted.   We turn on the tap and immediately have clear water.  We flush toilets and rinse waste down the drain.  Where does the water come from?  Where does it go, and how is it made clean again?  We can live in blissful unawareness – but we owe our health to sanitized water.

It’s easy to lose sight of how recent a phenomenon this is.

Sewage Treatment, 160 Short Years Ago

Long before I knew I’d work in water education, I read a fascinating book on the 1854 cholera epidemic, The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson.  It’s an engrossing read that will definitely make you appreciate our current sanitation facilities.

Residents of London in 1854 certainly did not have the water luxuries we have today.  The Victorian metropolis had no formal system of waste management.  Whereas we rely on pipes and filtration systems, Victorian Londoners relied in no small part on people.  Distinct specialists recycled London’s waste.

For example, the toshers searched the rivers for bits of metal, using poles to probe the ground in front of them and to help pull themselves out of quagmires.  They were a step up from the mud larks, often children, who scavenged the rivers for anything the toshers passed over – usually bits of old rope or wood or coal.  And sewer-hunters probed London’s early system for coins, jewelry, and other treasures.  Theirs was a dangerous job – hazards included being incapacitated by noxious fumes, getting attacked by rats, or being incinerated if their lanterns met a pocket of methane gas.  These and various other groups collected waste and effectively recycled it, supplying more established trades with raw materials.

But the big waste-recycling problem facing London was human waste.  London’s population had rapidly expanded, going from about a million people in 1800 to 2.4 million in 1854.  Sanitation, such as it was, had not kept up.  Most people tossed their waste into cesspits next to their houses, or even into their basements – a survey from 1849 found that 5% of homes had excrement piling up in cellars.  These cesspools were periodically cleaned by another class of human recyclers – the night-soil men.

Night-soil men had the unenviable job of emptying cesspits and carting the excrement away to the countryside, where it would be used as fertilizer.  These men commanded high wages for their work, but a problem arose.  As London expanded, the distance to the countryside increased, and the night-soil men charged higher rates to cover transport costs.  Many Londoners decided to let their cesspits build up rather than pay.  And as the city’s population increased, so did its accumulated waste.

At around this time, London modernized its sewer system.  London’s sewers were originally intended to carry away surface water, not human waste.  During the 1840s, the city developed a vast new system to try to meet demand.  This system, however, discharged waste into the River Thames – which was also the primary source of drinking water for Londoners.  The sewer system had unintentionally engineered the perfect conditions for a cholera epidemic.

Death on Tap

Cholera does not travel through the air – to become infected, a human must ingest the bacteria.  To spread, cholera bacteria need conditions where humans regularly consume each other’s excrement.  Humans naturally avoid this.  Consequently, although cholera is an ancient disease, it didn’t become a global killer until the nineteenth century – when people began living densely in cities with inadequate infrastructure, like Victorian London.

But people didn’t blame cholera epidemics on cities, infrastructure, or water.  The prevailing theory held that diseases spread through bad smells.  Victorians blamed diseases on miasma – noxious air.

You can understand why this theory might have held weight.  Given the number of overflowing cesspits in the city, the air was undoubtedly foul-smelling. London’s sanitation efforts therefore concentrated on eliminating bad odors.  This included updating the sewer system, which then delivered cholera bacteria directly to Londoners’ small intestines.

But this prevailing disease theory began to change with the 1854 cholera epidemic.

1854:  Connecting the Dots

This epidemic began on August 31 in a London neighborhood called the Golden Square.  Over the next three days, 127 people died.  By the end of the outbreak, 616 people had died, and the mortality rate was 12.8% in some parts of the city.  This outbreak caught the attention of a physician named John Snow.

Dr. Snow found the miasma theory of disease inadequate.  One could be in direct contact with a cholera patient and not catch the disease, and yet others in the same neighborhood (or even the same building), who had no personal contact, could contract it.  If all were breathing the same noxious air, what was the explanation?  And why were so many of the London scavenger classes, including the sewer-hunters, so healthy?

In 1849, Snow proposed a water-borne theory of cholera transmission.  It didn’t gain much traction.  Snow saw the 1854 outbreak as a chance for more research.  He investigated the Golden Square outbreak and linked the deaths to the drinking water from a pump on Broad Street.  Snow persuaded the authorities to lock the pump.  Later investigations found that the well was connected to a neighboring cesspit, which was connected to the home of one of the first victims of the cholera epidemic.

Unfortunately, Snow’s discovery did not change opinions overnight.  It took years for the water-transmission theory to be accepted, and longer still for the germ theory of disease to gain acceptance.

Fortune of the Frontier

Anyone who has ever played The Oregon Trail game likely remembers our players falling ill with dysentery or cholera, or encountering bad water.  Water quality and sanitation issues affected the United States as well as Europe (a cholera epidemic struck New York City in 1832).  Colorado’s cities, however, were perhaps spared the worst of these epidemics.  Denver was founded in 1858, four years after the Golden Square outbreak.  As our cities grew, we had the advantage of new scientific understanding, but developing sanitation facilities has never been easy.

The Golden Square cholera outbreak was only 160 years ago.  This may seem like a long time, but humans have needed to find sources of drinking water and dispose of waste forever.  Just 160 years ago, we didn’t yet understand that mixing waste with our drinking water could literally kill us.  It took scientists like John Snow to identify this problem, and it takes thousands of water and sanitation workers today to ensure our drinking water’s quality.

Guaranteeing water quality may not be a glamorous job, but we owe these men and women our health. So in these waning days of August, take a moment to thank your water and wastewater managers!

Read more about Colorado’s water quality and sanitation in the 2013 Headwaters issue on water utilities and the Citizen’s Guide to Colorado’s Water Quality Protection.

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Water Plan Input, Round 2: The Legislature

Even if you live here, you have a chance to give input to Colorado’s Water Plan

Unless you’ve been living off-the-grid in a far corner of our beautiful state, you know that the Colorado Water Conservation Board is leading an effort to craft Colorado’s Water Plan.

 After almost a decade of work, nine Basin Roundtables have crafted individual plans that will offer solutions for how each basin’s future water needs will be addressed at the local level.  These ‘Basin Implementation Plans’ will then be incorporated into Colorado’s Water Plan, with a draft due in December 2014. There have been over 100 meetings held by the roundtables to educate about the plan and offer opportunities for input since Summer 2013.

Our esteemed lawmakers want to hear from you!

Now that the roundtables have submitted their draft plans, and are taking a breather to regroup, the State Legislature is picking up the task of gathering additional public input. To ensure full dialogue on Colorado’s Water Plan, as well as to engage House and Senate members in the drafting and review of the plan, the State Legislature passed Senate Bill 14-115 in the 2014 session. The bill sets up meetings between the general public and the Water Resources Review Committee of the Legislature in each of Colorado’s river basins between June and October of 2014.

 How are these meetings different than the ones held by the roundtables? First of all, it’s your opportunity to speak directly with elected officials about what constitutes optimum state water policy. The legislators on the committee will consider your comments in their drafting of feedback to the CWCB regarding the scope, fundamental approach and basic elements of Colorado’s Water Plan. Secondly, your comments can now include any reaction you may have to the draft Basin Implementation Plans submitted by the nine Roundtables.

The Chair of this year’s Water Resources Review Committee, Rep. Randy Fischer of Ft. Collins, is genuine in his desire to get outside the echo chamber regarding state water policy. The Roundtables did an admirable job of this in their first set of public meetings. This second opportunity for input is a chance for those who did not participate earlier in the process to learn, understand and be heard.  Its also a chance to reinforce your thoughts about the draft Basin Implementation Plans if you’ve already provided input.

Here is the schedule—take an hour out of your day to help our elected officials understand your point of view!  More details are on the WRRC’s website.

Gunnison                       June 18

Glenwood Springs          August 21

Durango                         August 27

Alamosa                          August 28

Pueblo                             August 29

Steamboat Springs         September 16

Walden                            September 16

Ft. Collins                        September 17

Denver                             October 1

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How Rivers Shaped the Shape of Colorado

Back in November, you may have seen the Buzzfeed post where Brits were asked to label the United States, with hilarious results.  My favorite map (the second one) identified Colorado as “Squaresies.”

Looking at the outline of Squaresies, you might think that rivers didn’t play a big role in the development of the state.  Unlike the many Eastern states that have at least one border defined by a river, Colorado’s boundaries are defined by degrees of latitude and longitude, established as Americans settled and carved up new Western territories.

But those straight borders belie the importance of rivers in shaping Colorado.  Rivers have defined much of Colorado’s history.  When American explorers first ventured into Colorado, they followed rivers.  When Americans moved into the area, they settled near the rivers.  Anyone who wanted to survive in Colorado had to live near a reliable water supply.  But then Coloradans broke away from rivers.  They began diverting the water to wherever they wished to settle.  This has enabled people to live throughout the state, but Coloradans are still dependent on water, and new systems have created new challenges.

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First-Ever Campus Water Conservation Plan at MSU Denver

Students from the MSU Denver ENV 290B Water Conservation Management Class created a campus-wide water management plant

Students from the MSU Denver ENV 290B Water Conservation Management Class created a campus-wide water management plant

MSU Denver students, along with advice from Denver Water and the One World One Water Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship (OWOW), created the first-ever comprehensive campus water management plan. The plan was the result from the ENV 290B Water Conservation Planning summer course. The students spent 8 hours a day, for two weeks, researching and creating the plan for the new applied-learning course. The final plan was unveiled to Mark Cassalia from Denver Water’s Conservation department, Nona Shipman and Tom Cech from OWOW, and Jon Bortles, the campus Sustainably Director. The plan received rave reviews and will be used to make much needed water conserving changes to the current campus water management plan.

The plan included data and mapping for outdoor water usage, indoor water usage, a drought response plan, a communication strategy, and further ideas on how to reduce potable water usage. The students enjoyed the course and are now Colorado water stewards.

The following two maps and descriptions were included in the students’ plan:

This map, created for the MSU Denver class' final report,.hows the landscape type of all irrigated land on Auraria Campus.

This map shows the landscape type of all irrigated land on Auraria Campus.

The above map shows the landscape type of all irrigated land on Auraria Campus. Each polygon is classified as one of the following: an area under construction, a garden, hardscaped, mixed, no irrigation, shrub, athletic field, turf, tree/ lawn, tree/ shrub or Xeriscape. To fully understand the classification scheme in the above the map, a few landscape types require further clarification. Mixed is defined as one land area that contains a combination of land covers, such as Xeriscape and tree/ lawn. It was defined due to a limitation within ArcGIS in that, each specific polygon could not be given partial or multiple classifications. Tree/ lawn is defined as a generally narrow strip of land, containing both trees and lawns; it is commonly found alongside public roads as it is a required by zoning regulations (which may be subject to change). Similarly, tree/ shrub is a type of land cover that generally exists in a narrow strip. However, rather than lawns, the base of the trees are surrounded by shrubs. Lastly, the term Xeriscape encompasses areas requiring substantially less water: native grass, native/ Xeric plants, mulch and/ or rocks.

This Future Potential Landscape Classification map was created to recommend areas where implementing a more sustainable landscape could benefit the Auraria Campus.

This Future Potential Landscape Classification map was created to recommend areas where implementing a more sustainable landscape could benefit the Auraria Campus.

The purpose of the Future Potential Landscape Classification map is to recommend areas where implementing a more sustainable landscape would be of benefit. Much of the irrigated land should ideally be converted using Xeriscape techniques in order to reduce water use while maintaining a naturally beautiful landscape. In this map, native grass has been listed as a separate category from Xeriscape, to clarify areas that should undergo turf removal, to be specifically replaced with a grass variety that require substantially less water. Two turf areas have been left intact: the turf in front of the Student Success building due to the intricate storm system located underneath it, as well as the turf surrounding the 9th Street Historic District.

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