water

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Twenty-thirteen marks the 14th year of the worst drought in the past century, so Colorado River Basin states are following 2007 agreement guidelines, and releasing less water from a major reservoir, Lake Powell.


Only 7.48 million acre feet will be released from Lake Powell next water year, down about 9% from normal levels. It’s the lowest release since the 1960s.   

Three conservation organizations have released a series of web videos, encouraging Wyomingites to improve water quality.

The videos highlight best management practices some landowners are using to handle E. coli, selenium and sediment, among other issues.

Kathy Rosenthal is the watershed coordinator for the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts, one of the partner groups producing the videos. Rosenthal acknowledged a lack of awareness as one of the major obstacles for Wyoming’s water quality going forward.

The US Geological Survey will merge operations from their Wyoming and Montana Water Science Centers this fall.
 

The centers measure stream flow and quality in each state, which share two water sheds and have similar geography.
 

Wyoming-based USGS Hydrologist says currently, each team can only do monitoring up to the state line.
 

A new report by the environmental group Sierra Club says at least three coal-fired power plants in Wyoming discharge pollution containing metals into streams. According to the report, some plants do not monitor how much waste they discharge or what it contains.

The Environmental Protection Agency says coal plants nationwide contribute more than half of the toxic pollutants discharged to water bodies by regulated industry, but discharge standards have not been updated since 1982. 

Wyoming State Engineer Pat Tyrrell has placed restrictions on groundwater use near LaGrange in Goshen County.

Tyrrell says there’s not enough water to go round in the Horse Creek Basin, and that groundwater and surface water in the area are connected. That means people with wells could be taking water that surface water users are entitled to.

Elizabeth Shogren/NPR

The Environmental Protection Agency is taking public comments on the extension of several water discharge permits on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

The EPA is looking at renewing existing permits that allow companies to pump waste water from oil and gas fields to the surface on the Reservation. The produced water exemption allows this practice only in the arid West. In general, state agencies have tighter regulations than the EPA about what can be pumped to the surface, but tribal land is under the EPA’s jurisdiction.    

The Summit on the Snake – an annual conference about use of the Snake River – will take place in Jackson this Saturday. Speakers will discuss the wildlife, history, ecology, and management of the Snake River and there will be a panel regarding the future of river management in Jackson Hole.

Snake River Fund Program Director, Margaret Creel, says the Bureau of Land Management will transfer management duties to Teton County soon, and the county needs to figure out how to manage the resource responsibly. Currently, river use is unregulated. 

An international conference about mining reclamation ended in Laramie today. The American Society of Mining and Reclamation and the Wyoming Reclamation and Restoration Center hosted the event, which featured technical presentations about reclamation issues as well as policy questions and case studies.

UW professor and director of the Wyoming Reclamation and Restoration Center, Pete Stahl, says there were many Australian and Chinese stakeholders in attendance.   

Department of Energy EIA

The Sierra Club and partner organizations filed a lawsuit today against BNSF Railways and several coal producers. The suit claims the companies are violating the federal Clean Water Act when they discharge coal dust along railways from the Powder River Basin without permits to do so.

Pacific Northwest Regional Press Secretary for Sierra Club’ Beyond Coal campaign, Krista Collard, says a letter of intent to file the suit was sent to all parties two months ago, but they did little to limit coal dust pollution.

An energy group says a recently released report overstated issues of water use by the oil and gas industry. The Western Organization of Resource Councils released the report last month and said regulators need to consider the quantity of water the energy industry uses, in addition to the quality.

Associated Press

Last year’s drought could impact the Wyoming water supply this summer.

The National Weather Service says that, although recent storms have helped replenish mountain snowpack, there might not be enough to get back to normal levels of runoff, which is state’s most common water source for crops and municipalities.

NWS Hydrologist Jim Fahey says that’s because the upper soil levels were parched by the drought and will likely absorb much of the runoff. Fahey says this could become especially problematic for some people during the summer months.

The Wyoming Rural Water Association supports the state’s plan to limit water pollution caused by leaking landfills… But says it’s already taken too long to get started on the effort, and it could be a while before Wyoming sees significant improvements.

At a press conference last week, Governor Matt Mead reminded the public of two bills the legislature passed this session. They created a municipal solid waste landfill remediation program as well as an initiative to help sub-par landfills close and transfer new garbage to better facilities.

An environmental group in Pinedale is trying to help residents understand water quality issues, by creating an online map of gas wells, water wells, and other hydrologic data.

Linda Baker with the Upper Green River Alliance says she got the idea for the project when water wells in the Pinedale Anticline gas field started showing traces of benzene and other pollutants several years ago.

Baker served on the Pinedale Anticline Working Group, and she says data from the Bureau of Land Management, Department of Environmental Quality, and other agencies was very technical.

A report by the Western Organization of Resource Councils says the oil and gas industry is using at least seven billion gallons of water per year in just four states: Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota. The report says after industry is done with that water, it turns into a hazardous material, and in some cases cannot be reused for other purposes.

Powder River Basin Resource Council member Robert LeResche says he’s also worried about states’ lack of regulations regarding the quantity of water used.

‘Gasland 2’, a sequel to the 2010 documentary ‘Gasland,’ premiers this weekend in New York City. The original film focused on land owners alleging that oil and gas development on their land contaminated their water sources. The movie is thought to have brought the terms ‘fracking’ into the mainstream. The films’ director, Josh Fox, says the sequel investigates how government and regulatory agencies have dealt with what affected land owners say is contamination by industry.

Wyoming State Engineer Pat Tyrrell says he’s optimistic that community members will be able to come up with voluntary measures to manage water resources in the Horse Creek Basin in southeastern Wyoming.

Tyrrell says there appears to be a water shortage, and he says it’s complicated figuring out how much water everyone is entitled to, because groundwater and surface water are connected in the area.

Tyrrell hosted a public hearing in LaGrange on Friday to gather input from water users about what to do, and he says the meeting was productive.

The Environmental Protection Agency is asking for more information from Encana Oil and Gas before signing off on the company’s request for an aquifer exemption. Encana wants to pump waste water into the Madison Aquifer from their oil and gas field in the Moneta Divide. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has already approved the request, but the EPA says the modeling of the plume that Encana did is too broad and the agency wants more information about why, according to Encana, the relatively clean water can’t be used for other purposes .

Tristan Ahtone

Native American tribes need to make sure they are protecting their natural resources. Eastern Shoshone Business Council member Wes Martel, from the Wind River Indian Reservation, spoke during a University of Wyoming American Indian Studies program this week. Martel said tribes need to be more careful about the kinds of contracts they enter into for energy development. He added that water is the new gold but very few tribes are taking real steps to secure this resource.  

The state engineer’s office says in parts of Laramie and Goshen Counties, demand for water appears to exceed supply.

State Engineer Pat Tyrrell says groundwater and surface water are connected in that area, so people who draw down the water in their wells are affecting water in streams, which means less water flows into the Hawk Spring Reservoir. He says there hasn’t been enough water to go around for quite some time.

A new report by the Environmental Protection Agency shows that streams in Wyoming are in better condition than the national average. The study collected about two thousand samples from streams nationwide to determine the quality of the water.  Denise Keehner is Director of the EPA’s  Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds.  She says Wyoming is divided into four eco-regions – in those eco-regions water quality is poor in 26% to 43% of streams, while the national average is 55%.

The state engineer says Laramie County residents could see new restrictions on groundwater use in the future.

Much of the county gets its water from the Ogallala Aquifer, which is being depleted faster than it can recharge. The state engineer’s office is launching a study to figure out what would happen to the aquifer if current water use continues.

State Engineer Pat Tyrrell says it’s important to come up with a management plan before the water runs out.

Pavillion Working Group Has New Issue To Address

Oct 11, 2012

A working group looking into groundwater contamination near Pavillion is still debating findings of contamination of water wells near the town. 

State officials are still studying the results of a U.S.  Geological Survey test and some possible conflicting information with an Environmental Protection Agency study. 

USGS

The U-S Geological Survey released a study examining how coalbed natural gas production affects water quality in nearby streams and rivers. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden spoke with Melanie Clark, the author of the report.

HOST: In December, the Environmental Protection Agency released a draft report tentatively linking water contamination in the town of Pavillion to hydraulic fracturing activities in the area. The release of the draft report caused a spectacle, and state, federal and tribal agencies have now caught in a bureaucratic holding pattern, while residents affected by contaminated water wait in a form of investigative limbo. Wyoming Public Radio’s Tristan Ahtone attended a recent Pavillion Work Group meeting to get updates on the investigation.

The National Science Foundation announced today (Friday) that the University of Wyoming will receive a 20-million-dollar grant to study water resources in the state.  It’s the largest grant ever received by the University.   U-W Researcher Steve Holbrook says they hope to answer a number of water related questions and help future water managers.

Wyoming plans to install water cisterns at the homes of residents in the Pavillion area’s natural gas field. An EPA draft report suggests contaminants in area wells are connected to hydraulic fracturing, but state officials say the cause of the contamination is unknown.
 

As testing continues on whether fracking contaminated groundwater in the Pavillion area, Governor Matt Mead and state officials will host a meeting next week on a new way to get fresh water to citizens. 

Mead says they are considering a cistern system where each resident would have a water tank to hold their water supply.  Water for the tanks would be trucked from Riverton or Lander.  One issue is how to pay for it.  Governor Mead says the Environmental Protection Agency is not set up to help pay for such a project and getting the gas company Encana to pay is a bit tricky.

Concerns about possible water shortages have lead the Riverton City Council to adopt a drought plan and implement mild restrictions. Under the plan’s level green, there are no restrictions. The current yellow level asks residents to conserve water voluntarily. Voluntary water conservation measures include fixing leaks and avoiding watering lawns during the hottest parts of the day.

Tribal officials on the Wind River Reservation continue to seek answers after the Department of Energy announced that uranium was found in some residents' tap water. DOE officials announced last week that data collected in the fall indicated that four households near a former uranium waste site had levels of uranium nearly twice the legal limit. Dean Goggles is executive Director for the Wind River Environmental Quality Commission. He says tribal members are currently faced with more questions than answers.

Water specialists at the Natural Resources Conservation Service say that snowpack throughout the state is well below what’s average at this time of year. The northwest corner of the state is closest to what’s considered normal, but the state-wide average is 54 percent of that.

Water specialist for the NRCS, Lee Hackleman, says this could mean drought. 

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