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Environment: Pharmaceutical pollutants elude water treatment, make their way into groundwater

This Meadow Creek, a wild, free-flowing stream that starts in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area and ends up flowing right past our house before its confluence with Dillon Reservoir, where it's wild no more.

How pure is your groundwater?

Iowa stream sampling shows common drugs turning up in well water

Staff Report

FRISCO — Research in a small stream near Des Moines, Iowa shows how pharmaceuticals and other hard-to-remove pollutants from treated municipal wastewater can travel into shallow groundwater following their release to streams.

“Water level measurements obtained during this study clearly show that stream levels drive daily trends in groundwater levels,” said Paul Bradley, lead author of the new U.S. Geological Survey study. Continue reading

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Environment: Water depletion accelerating in key aquifers

Regions where the water level has declined in the period 1980-1995 are shown in yellow and red; regions where it has increased are shown in shades of blue. Data from the USGS

Regions where the water level has declined in the period 1980-1995 are shown in yellow and red; regions where it has increased are shown in shades of blue. Via USGS.

Is the U.S. headed for water bankruptcy?

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With many rivers in the western part of the U.S. already tapped out, the pressure on groundwater resources has been increasing, as shown by new U.S. Geological Survey research documenting accelerating depletion of aquifers around the country.

Groundwater depletion in the U.S. was so extensive between 2000 and 2008 that it accounts for 2 percent of the total observed sea level rise during that period, as the water ends up in the ocean as part of the hydrological cycle rather than remaining locked away underground.

Since 1900, the total amount of water depleted from aquifers was equal to more than twice the volume of water in Lake Erie.

Essentially, the country is frittering away its water savings faster than ever, with no idea how to replace them, or what to do when they’re gone.

Just in the eight years between 2001 and 2008, depletion of the Ogalla Aquifer amounted to 32 percent of the total depletion during the entire 20th century. The annual rate of depletion during this recent period averaged about 10.2 cubic kilometers, roughly 2 percent of the volume of water in Lake Erie. Continue reading

Colorado: New rule for sampling groundwater near oil and gas wells wins committee test

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New rules would tighten up water testing around oil and gas wells  in Colorado’s Greater Wattenberg area.

Proposed law would end exemption for busy oil and gas fields northeast of Denver

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A new measure to protect Colorado water quality from fracking impacts narrowly passed a House committee on a 6-5 vote. HB 1316 requires state regulators to adopt uniform statewide groundwater sampling rules and ends an exemption for the largest oil and gas field in Colorado in the Greater Wattenberg area.

The measure would require sampling of all groundwater sources (up to a maximum of four wells) within a half-mile of proposed oil and gas wells, as well as follow-up sampling after the wells are drilled.

State officials previously said the Greater Wattenberg Are exemption was made because the state already has a robust water quality database for that area. Requiring more testing would put an “undue burden on the industry without providing additional safety benefits,” said Ginny Brannon, assistant director for water and energy at the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, in a January interview with Summit Voice.

Brannon said Weld County has a groundwater testing program that  provides water well testing to any well owner requesting it, but conservation groups want more consistent statewide standards for testing. They said the new requirements are a step toward better protection of public health and the environment. Continue reading

Colorado: New groundwater protection rules still contentious

The proliferation of oil and gas drilling in Colorado raises serious questions about water quality impacts. Photo courtesy SkyTruth.

The proliferation of oil and gas drilling in Colorado raises serious questions about water quality impacts. Photo courtesy SkyTruth.

State officials claim new rules are pioneering; conservation advocates say rule-making ignored science

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado officials are touting new groundwater protection rules as a pioneering step in the regulation of of oil and gas drilling, but conservation groups say the requirements don’t do enough to protect public health and water quality.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission this week approved the regulations after months of stakeholder discussions with the goal of protecting well owners and the industry. The rules require drilling companies to sample nearby water wells both before and after drilling. Only two other states have mandatory groundwater programs in place and no other state in the country requires operators to take post-drilling water samples. Continue reading

Op-ed: Colorado needs to pony up on oil and gas rules

Bob Berwyn.

Bob Berwyn.

Setbacks, water quality monitoring needs to err on the side of caution

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Even though Colorado touts clean air and water and healthy lifestyles based on outdoor activities like skiing and hiking, the reality is is far different.

Somehow, government and energy industry spin-meisters have perpetuated a myth of a “clean” natural gas energy boom, but thanks to our almost insatiable thirst for fossil fuels, large parts of the state have been turned into industrial zones. Drill pads, power generators, pumping stations and roads fragmenting forests, sagebrush fields and even residential areas.

Methane leakage from drilling operations is contributing to global warming. Other noxious gases contribute to regional haze and smog, causing serious health problems. At this point, there’s really no telling what’s going on with our groundwater, but every time I hear government and the energy industry say, “don’t worry,” my concern grows, especially as more and more areas are opened to drilling. Continue reading

Colorado: South Park to seek federal aquifer protection

Sole source designation could help guard against mining impacts

A typical in-situ uranium mining test-drilling site during the exploration phase. Photo courtesy Save Our South Park Water.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — South Park residents concerned about impacts of uranium mining and other forms of energy development are seeking federal protection for their water supplies under a sole source aquifer designation from the EPA.

The designation would require more in-depth review of any proposed activities that could affect water supplies. Of special concern is uranium mining near Hartsel, as well as potential development of oil and gas resources. The designation could also result in buffers and other protective measures.

Gaining the EPA designation is a multi-step process beginning Sept. 11 with a meeting of the local environmental advisory board. Citizens will offer a petition requesting the South Park county commissioners to sponsor a formal request for the designation to regional, state and federal authorities. Get an overview of the  regional sole source aquifer program at this EPA website. Continue reading

Opinion: Nevada aims to suck itself dry

Las Vegas wants to suck water from distant aquifers to fuel more unsustainable growth.

State engineer approves Las Vegas plan to pump groundwater from remote basins

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — It was almost inevitable that state officials in Nevada would approve a controversial groundwater pumping scheme that will suck the water out of various aquifers, and could extinguish the surface life that depends on precious moisture in the desert.

After all, sustainable development has never been a Nevada hallmark, and Las Vegas — despite occasional propaganda campaigns suggesting otherwise — is the very antithesis of sustainability.

But this week’s decision by the Nevada State Engineer will have serious consequences for rare ecological communities that depend on groundwater, drying up springs, creeks and upland plant communities. The project is, by most measures, an environmental train wreck in the making. Continue reading

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