Colorado And The Watergy Nexus

Via the Daily Camera, a report on one aspect of Colorado’s watergy nexus:

Flatiron Freddy, Boulder’s rodent meteorologist, has signaled more winter ahead and it’s faint comfort for those who are too familiar with evacuating for wildfire, as this year’s winter is certainly not moist enough to keep that threat much at bay, and there’s the chance that this summer will be an appalling scorcher.

Severe drought has clobbered over 80 percent of America’s High Plains, with the land area of four big square states including Colorado being engulfed in severe drought. The watershed feeding the Mississippi River, comprising about two-thirds of the Lower 48, was so parched that the river needed continual dredging in the face of ever declining water levels, and barges lightened their loads, to allow commerce to flow at slow rate.

Texas of course has had record-breaking drought with recent yearly rainfalls of 15 inches and 11 inches prompting state regulators to name drought as a threat to their electrical system since thermal plants that burn coal and natural gas use water for cooling. The state’s new long-term assessment for the grid found that under drought the western, drier parts of the state shall see no new generation from fossil fuels.

Texas is not alone in looking at the creeping conflict between water and energy, a tension dubbed the “water-energy nexus.” The International Energy Agency has concluded that worldwide, fresh water is an increasingly crucial issue for energy production, projecting that such use will double by 2035 with coal and biofuels taking up about 80 percent and oil and gas production another ten.

And fracking is bringing up the rear as a creeping threat to clean water. Scientists with the Environmental Protection Agency have long been alarmed that the fracking boom is creating wastewater that his highly radioactive — over 300 times moreso that what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission allows for its industrial waste. Frack-waste is also toxic with dissolved salts and metals on top of the specialized solvents injected by developers, as spelled out in papers by Pennsylvania State University and U.S. Geological Survey. The EPA will issue a final report on potential impacts to drinking water in 2014.

Yet, there are only state-by-state regulations to address this hazardous waste stream, as fracking enjoys exemption from the Clean Water Act and many other major statutes.

The custom for handling 90 percent of fracking waste is to reuse it often and then stow it in injection wells that extend thousands of feet deep. That’s not much assurance. ProPublica has found it to be common for injection wells to have structural failures, with up to 17,000 violated inspections (or one in six) between 2007 and 2010. A 25-year EPA expert on underground injection named Mario Salazar told ProPublica that starting in ten years, much of our ground water could be polluted and folks will start getting sick. Additionally, this past fall at the American Geophysical Union, scientists presented evidence tying a recent rise in earthquakes to the rising use of injection wells for frack-waste disposal, with one of the regions much affected being Colorado.

An under regulated radioactive and toxic waste stream. A large population of injection wells being faulty and leaking. Earthquakes popping up around injection activity. Ongoing planetary warming intensifying drought and shrinking fresh water volumes everywhere. “What more could go wrong?” asks Jane Q. Citizen. And the obvious answer is, we are seeing compounding threats to our water supply. And on those threats we have some choice.

Colorado is a water source to many states while also being affected by drought all over its territory. We’re also a uranium producing state — so as we produce gas by fracking, we should demand tracer studies to see where radioactive and toxic waters flow, being quick to identify the source. Producers feel their methods are safe, so they have nothing to hide.

We should also act on Texas’ discovery that wind and solar power are now cost competitive with gas for producing electricity on top of being indispensable water savers.

We should support the campaign of WildEarth Guardians to have 6,000 additional miles of Colorado’s headwater streams be designated as “outstanding waters” and assured the highest level of protection for pristine sources.

And we should book reservations to Paonia and the North Fork River Valley to celebrate that area’s successful pushback against fracking lease sales that were just withdrawn. Public outcry works and “America’s Tuscany” of organic foods, as Paonia is now known, deserves tourist dollars so they need never miss fracking revenue. Enjoy.

This entry was posted on Monday, February 11th, 2013 at 3:06 am and is filed under Uncategorized.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. 

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

About This Blog And Its Author
As the scarcity of water and energy continues to grow, the linkage between these two critical resources will become more defined and even more acute in the months ahead.  This blog is committed to analyzing and referencing articles, reports, and interviews that can help unlock the nascent, complex and expanding linkages between water and energy -- The Watergy Nexus -- and will endeavor to provide a central clearinghouse for insightful articles and comments for all to consider.

Educated at Yale University (Bachelor of Arts - History) and Harvard (Master in Public Policy - International Development), Monty Simus has held a lifelong interest in environmental and conservation issues, primarily as they relate to freshwater scarcity, renewable energy, and national park policy.  Working from a water-scarce base in Las Vegas with his wife and son, he is the founder of Water Politics, an organization dedicated to the identification and analysis of geopolitical water issues arising from the world’s growing and vast water deficits, and is also a co-founder of SmartMarkets, an eco-preneurial venture that applies web 2.0 technology and online social networking innovations to motivate energy & water conservation.  He previously worked for an independent power producer in Central Asia; co-authored an article appearing in the Summer 2010 issue of the Tulane Environmental Law Journal, titled: “The Water Ethic: The Inexorable Birth Of A Certain Alienable Right”; and authored an article appearing in the inaugural issue of Johns Hopkins University's Global Water Magazine in July 2010 titled: “H2Own: The Water Ethic and an Equitable Market for the Exchange of Individual Water Efficiency Credits.”