Proper Disposal and Reclamation of Water in Colorado for Oil and Gas Company
From the earliest period of settlement in Colorado, the residents of Colorado have relied greatly on the unreliable streams of the region to build societies, traditions, and laws that permits interaction of humans with the environment and offer a course for the sharing of scarce water resources among the residents for both domestic and industrial purposes.
Many societies all over the world have rules of water allocation and usage that safeguards other users of water, public health, and landowners. The Colorado legislature prior to the inception of the current Colorado Water laws, enacted several acts between 1881 and 1969 (Jones & Cech, 2009). Currently, two major acts guide the administration and supply of water in the State of Colorado. These are the 1965 Ground Water Management Act and the 1969 Water Rights Determination and Administration Act. Jones and Cech (2009) states that the 1965 Act set up the standards for designating regions of the state requiring strict management to optimize the usage of ground water. However, the 1969 Act amended these principles and established a process of include wells outside areas designated under the 1965 Act into the sensitive system.
Water management is the duty of the entire society because water is vital for both domestic and commercial purposes. Governments have different rules that govern the usage of water within their borders. The general quantity of water is diminishing with time because of growing population and the increasing levels of industrialization. Oil and coal production, for instance, requires a significant amount of water (Chopra 2010). The drilling of a well and the general production of refined oil requires a lot of water that can only be used once. In other words, once water is used in the drilling and production of a certain product it cannot be reused for the same purpose. The state of Colorado has great coal and oil wells that consume most of the water. As such, the state is bound to suffer water shortage if reclamation processes are not put in place and implemented. The oil production companies and the government of Colorado have the duty to ensure that other aspects of life, such as agriculture and domestic purposes do not suffer because of coal production. Recycling and the use of both prior appropriation concept and the riparian concept can go a long way in reclaiming water in the state of Colorado (LeMenager 2014).
Being a scarce resource, water usage for industrial as well as domestic purposes requires proper systems to minimize cost of want consumption. Many companies adopt different water disposal and reclamation systems according to their use and laws controlling water consumption by industries. While oil and gas companies have water disposal and reclamation systems, the effectiveness of the system depends on the environmental characteristics of the location and laws on usage of resources. This paper discusses disposal and reclamation of water by oil and gas companies in Colorado and the factors that hinder the processes involved.
Earthquakes from Pumping Water in Ground for Trucking
Scientists have noted the impact of water in bedrock on earthquakes. Injection of water into the ground has caused earthquakes in Denver Colorado (Bolt, 1993). The discovery of the capacity of pumping water underground occurred when a disposal well was drilled for the U.S. army at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in 1961, Denver, Colorado. Injection of fluids containing the waste into the well begun in March 8, 1962 and continued on a regular basis until September 30, 1963. Afterwards this activity stopped until August 1964, when the waste was drained into the well by gravity force until April 6, 1965, and then the waste was injected into the well under pressure again. This was halted after an earthquake occurred in the Denver area because of fear of connection with the activity (Healy, Rubey, Griggs, & Raleigh, 1968).
How Oil and Gas Companies Get Water for Mining
Oil and gas companies use multiple processes to obtain water for mining. Since the water right system in Colorado adopts prior appropriation concept, water user cannot divert water from streams or pumped out of the ground for fracturing aligning the diversion with system. Oil and gas companies must comply with water laws of the state when getting and suing any source of water for mining.
These companies have a number of options from which to choose. An operator might decide to transport water from outside Colorado. In this case, provided the transport and the usage of water do not carry any obligation to Colorado, this is an acceptable water source in light of the water rights. Another source may be from irrigation water purchased or leased from landowner. Usually, a landowner may be entitled to surface water conveyed via a canal or a ditch for irrigation purpose. An oil mine operator may decide to enter to an agreement with the person holding the water rights to buy or lease a proportion of that water. Although this is permissible, in most cases, use of this water source is right tends to be limited to irrigation applications and is prohibited for use in constructing wells. Therefore, to permit its use for this purpose, the owner of the water right as well as the holder of the water right as well as the company may request to shift water right to the operator through a formal protocol.
Oil and gas companies can further obtain water for operation from water providers. They can do this by leasing or purchasing water from providers. It entails the operator deciding to sign a contract with the water provider to lease or buy water from the water system of the provider. Suppliers of water, including municipalities, may have a surplus of water in their system prior or after treatment, which can be sold or leased to operator for the purpose of well construction (Colorado Division of Water Resources, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, & the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission , 2012)
Pumping water in the ground is a major cause of earthquakes in Colorado. Scientists argue that the state of Colorado will continue to face the threat of earthquakes as long as coal and oil production continues within the land. As such, as a means of water reclamation, the government, and the oil companies within the state must come up with ideal strategies to reduce or eradicate the earthquakes that occur because of water pumping into the ground. One of the most effective ways of making sure that the water pumped into the ground does not affect the topography and functioning of the land is by ensuring that oil and coal wells have a strong base. Steal and concrete are some of the things that oil production companies can use to create the wells and ensure that the water does not weaken the base rock which further results in earthquakes. Cementing and coating the floor of the wells with the ideal material ensures that all the water that is used in the production process of the oil products is collected at the end (Noel 2006). The collection of the water ensures that the contaminated water does not flow back into the water system thus polluting the drinking water.
The Colorado Disposal for Oil and Gas Laws
The laws governing disposal for oil and gas waste are provided in the 900 series. The categorization of E and P waste as per the Oil and Gas Conservation ACT adheres to the federal exemption from describing the hazardous waste for exploration of oil and gas, as well as waste production. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment [CDPHE] has decreed laws on control of water quality and distribution, hazardous and solid waste.
Wastes from oil and gas mining have multiple rules governing its disposal. The law for this purpose provides for operators to dispose drilling fluids by alternative ways, including injecting into accepted Class II well, and discharge into a commercial facility for disposal of solid waste. Other disposal options are land treatment or application at an accepted centralized waste management facility.
The method of disposal depends on the waste type. Water-based drilling fluids are required to be disposed by drying and burial in pit in unproductive land. However, this is permissible just for specific concentration. Oil waste is disposed off through ejection at a for-profit solid waste plant.
Process of Reclamation of Water
Wastewater reclamation involves a large treatment plant. This plant comprise of units that serves a specific function. These units in a random order are head-works separation, aerobic digesters, clarifiers, and oxidation ditches (National Renewable Energy Laboratory [NREL], 2009).
Water reclamation is a rather long process for the state of Colorado. The oil production business is highly beneficial to the economic stability of the land, which makes it an ideal venture. However, the commercial use of water must not compromise the domestic requirements of this vital commodity. The oil companies must coexist with the society for effective productivity. Coexistence between organization and the society require certain commitments on the part of the government and the organizations involved. For instance, the oil companies and the government can make use of both the prior appropriation and the riparian concepts to minimize on water loss and maximize developments. The state of Colorado currently uses the prior appropriation concept in water allocation, which does not provide equity in the society (Noel 2006). The use of both concepts will ensure that oil companies do not get excess water at the expense of local consumers. Having a limited supply of water for oil companies will make the organizations effective and efficient in recycling the used water for other uses.
A closed loop system can be used to recycle the water used in the oil production business for agricultural purposes. One challenge of coal and oil production is that the water used in the production process can only be effective if used in one production. Rather than discarding and disposing such water, the closed loop process can help purify the water for irrigation and other farm purposes. Recycling of water through this process is rather costly, and many oil companies find it cost ineffective because of the low prices of oil. As such, oil companies in Colorado can team up to create an ideal plant that will help with recycling and purifying water from various plants for the purposes of agriculture (Chopra 2010).
Biological, thermal, and chemical processes can also help in the recycling process of water. Fishponds and other microorganisms play an ideal role in the recycling process of water. The recycled water can be useful in non-domestic processes that do not harm the environment (LeMenager 2014). In turn, the amount of water that would have been used for agricultural and farm process would be directed to the production of oil and coal. The Colorado water department must review its water allocation schemes to ensure equity in both the domestic and commercial water allocation. Recycling of water used in coal production can help in the process of water reclamation in Colorado.
Compare and Contrast Colorado Water System with Other States
The Colorado River Basin is governed by an intricate combination of over 100 laws, court rulings, technical policies and operational guidelines termed the Law of the River (Garrick, Whitten, & Coggan 2013). The United States of America abides by a general rule that the every state, of which Colorado is one, has unlimited control over water resources found within its boundaries and is entitled to institute any system of water rights governance of its choosing (Jones & Cech, 2009). The McCarran Amendment enables the federal government the right to claim the administration and adjudication of specific rights to utilize water in a water supply system of any state. In the state of Colorado, the federal government, like other right holder in Colorado, must have an adjudicated order to divert water from a river or a stream for a federal purpose or project. The federal government is prohibited to create a new position on the predetermined priority list or seize water away from priority (Jones & Cech, 2009).
Water is used for different purposes. Thus, different people stake claim on the scarce water in the state. For instance, as of 2009, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Denver Water planned to utilize their reserved water entitlements on the Colorado River. On the other hand, local economic concerns related to tourism coupled with federal environmental laws, could possibly interfere with intends to take away extra water from the streams on the Western slopes.
Different states employ the freedom the federal government allows them to set up distinct water allocation systems. All States’, but Louisiana, water law systems have component of the prior appropriation system or riparian system or both. Those States situated West of Mississippi use a blend of riparian and prior appropriation principles, while those on the East use only the riparian principles. According to Jones and Cech (2009), of all the Western states, Colorado implements complete and firmest form of prior appropriation. In light of the water laws, a firm or complete form of prior appropriation denote a system under which water is distributed to users solely on a basis of priority, in disregard of social, societal, or environmental consequences. In systems such as this, system-wide efficiency is a minor concern, in that priority transcends efficiency. Firm prior appropriation systems depend greatly on the influence of the free market system. The Colorado administration believes that if the economic players maintain an even trading platform, water will move to its optimal and best usage by market operation, and no external influence is essential to achieve this objective.
Conversely, combined or riparian systems initiate the concept of rationality. It bases on the philosophy that a relative damage of an action must be neutralized against the benefit likely to be produced. On top of retaining a few tenets of the conventional riparian law, other states recognize that the complete system of prior appropriation generates unfavorable outcomes and that authorities can best manage such externalities by determining and balancing key interests. In its most extreme end, these laws provides that it is proper to reallocate water uses to meet essential societal objectives, such as safeguarding the environment, or to trigger municipal growth in an areas with water scarcity. However, none of the states represents either of the extremes.
Many western law systems combine prior appropriation, riparian, and balancing concepts. Majority of them apply an emphasis on the concept of prior appropriation to control streams, and an emphasis on the concepts of riparian and balancing to control groundwater (Jones & Cech, 2009). According to Jones and Cech (2009) the system of administering surface water and a big proportion of its ground water is firm prior appropriation. Even among the western states, the commitment to the priority system is distinct. Similarly, Colorado is unique in its approach to resolving conflict on water rights. All states except Colorado have conferred to the state engineer or equivalent the power to act in an adjudicatory position to settle conflict among water users, on top of the duties connected to administering streams. The state of Colorado, contrary to other states, has reserved the adjudicatory role for elected water courts and delegated the primary responsibility of administering its river systems to the state engineer.
Colorado Oil and Gas Regulation
Oil companies such as Royal Dutch Shell has been reported to be purchasing rights to groundwater as it prepared to launch its operation in the largest oil shale in the United State, the Green River Basin (Bolonkin, Friedlander & Neumann, 2014). However, it must comply with specific laws governing water rights. According to Bai, Goodwin, and Carlson (2013), water is a major concern to the oil and gas industry because of its demand in hydraulic fracturing and drilling, and because of water generated from the gas and oil wells.
Federal laws influence Colorado water usage, of which one relates to concerns of water quality. With this regard, the Clean Water Act established control for ejection of pollutants, conferred to EPA the power to determine the standards of water quality, and made it a crime to dispose any pollutant from a point source into navigable water bodies without a permit. In addition, it recognized the serious issue of nonpoint pollution of water source. The Department of Public Health and Environment collaborate with the EPA to supervise and impose clauses of the Clean Water Act (Jones & Cech, 2009). Industrial, agricultural water and municipal water consumers are cautiously informed about the need to guard Colorado’s water resources. Nevertheless, the federal law sanctions the federal government to guarantee compliance with regulations of water quality. In United States, the Total Maximum Daily Load [TMDLs] is the measure used to determine water quality. This measure represents a calculation of the maximum concentration of pollutant permissible for ejection into a water resource but still satisfy standards of water quality.
The water right system adopted by Colorado, which is based on prior appropriation concept, is not effective to ensure equity in access to water. The state should embrace a mix of both the prior appropriation and riparian concept to minimize water loss and maximize development.
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