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The Energy Council

is a nonprofit trade organization that promotes safe and responsible oil and natural gas development in La Plata County. Individual and company members work to build community relations, increase public understanding, and address public issues relative to the industry.

Water Facts : Water Facts

Water Use in Oil and Gas Production:

Water is used in the drilling and completion phases of natural gas exploration and production. During drilling, water is used to cool the drill bit and provide a mechanism to bring drill cuttings to the surface. Water is also used for hydraulic fracturing. Operators can procure water supplies from various sources but must adhere to state water law when obtaining and using water.

FracFocus is the hydraulic fracturing chemical registry website, used in Colorado, where you can search for information about the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells and water used in hydraulic fracturing. In La Plata County, according to FracFocus, approximately 185,439 gallons of water are used for a typical hydraulic fracturing operation per well, although this amount can vary.

Putting the use into perspective:

· In Colorado, hydraulic fracturing accounts for about 1/10 of 1% of Colorado's annual water use.

· The amount of water used for hydraulic fracturing in Colorado is roughly comparable to the amount of water used in Colorado for snowmaking.

· During the summer months, an average golf course uses 100,000 to 1,000,000 gallons of water per week to maintain the turf grass.

For more information on water demands in Colorado:

Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Rules

In April of 2000 field wide spacing was approved by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). Special considerations in the Order 112-156 and 112-157 provide for water well testing. The water well testing criteria is specific as to the location of coalbed methane wells. The Order requires testing of water wells near the new or proposed coalbed methane wells before they are drilled and after completion operations, which include hydraulic fracturing. Additional tests are also performed at three year intervals. This robust database contains over 3,500 individual data sets from over 1,300 water wells. Among other things, the constituents analyzed identify whether hydraulic fracturing of nearby coalbed methane wells would have impacted underground sources of drinking water. If no significant changes from the baseline have been identified after the third test (the six year test), no further testing shall be required. Additional "post completion" test(s) may be required if changes in water quality are identified during follow-up testing. The Director may require further water well sampling at any time in response to complaints from water well owners.

Copies of all test results described above shall be provided to the COGCC, La Plata County or Archuleta County and the landowner where the water quality testing well is located within three (3) months of collecting the samples used for the test.

PLACE HOLDER FOR "How Well Do You Know Your Water Well - link -

Copyright© 2011 Michael Matheson and Joe Bowden

Water Right Applications:

Pursuant to Colorado water law and a recent ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court concerning water production from coalbed methane natural gas wells, many operators filed water right applications with the Division 7 Water Court in Durango, CO to confirm the right to produce water from existing and proposed wells in the San Juan Basin. In addition, under the same Supreme Court ruling, and pursuant to new rules promulgated by the State Engineer on December 30 th, 2009, many operators have applied for and received water well permits for coalbed methane natural gas wells, and have also obtained approval of Substitute Water Supply Plans (described below).

Plans for Augmentation and Substitute Water Supply Plans :

A plan for augmentation is a water court-approved plan that allows an out-of-priority diversion of water (such as well pumping), while ensuring that a replacement water supply is provided to the stream system in the times, location and amounts necessary to prevent injury to vested senior water rights. Replacement water supplies may include leased or purchased reservoir storage, direct flow water rights, nontributary ground water, or other sources such as transbasin water supplies and recharge projects. Replacement water must be of sufficient quality and quantity to meet the requirements for which the senior water right normally been used. Plans for augmentation are generally permanent in duration.

Substitute Water Supply Plans (SWSP's) are temporary plans, similar to augmentation plans, that are approved administratively by the State Engineer. SWSP's are approved for periods of not more than one year, and must be renewed annually. Often, a water user will obtain approval of a SWSP while an application for approval of a permanent augmentation plan is pending in Water Court.

Colorado House Bill 09-1303, passed by the General Assembly in 2009, required all coalbed methane natural gas wells that withdraw tributary ground water to be covered by an approved SWSP no later than March 31, 2010. That deadline was later extended to July 31, 2010 by subsequent legislation.

In the San Juan Basin, several operators have filed applications in the Division 7 Water Court for approval of plans for augmentation to replace out-of-priority depletions associated with coalbed methane wells that withdraw tributary ground water. These operators have also obtained approval of SWSPs to provide for replacement of depletions while the water court applications are pending.