McJoan has written a great story on the front page on oil shale. She talks about the water implications of oil shale in the west. Let's look specifically at Colorado.
First, where will the water come from. Coyote Gulch has a piece recently on Shell oil's filing for water rights on the Yampa River here. BTW, if you want to look at Colorado water issues, bookmark Coyote Gulch.
Shell has filed for 375 cubic feet per second of water rights. Doesn't sound like a lot? Try it in a little different terms - how about 168,000 gallons per minute or 88.3 billion gallons per year. Still don't get it - that is a lake two square miles in surface 211 feet deep every year.
OK: more below:
Let me put that in perspective - that number is 3 times the water usage of Colorado Springs in 2007 from the Colorado Springs Utility annual report. That annual report goes on to say:
Approximately 70% of the City’s raw water supply originates from the Colorado River Basin and those water rights are junior to the Colorado River Compact, which apportioned Colorado River water among the lower basin states (Arizona, California and Nevada) and the upper basin states (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) according to specified formulas. If the drought persists or intensifies, it is possible that the City would be unable to utilize all of its Colorado River Basin water rights due to their junior status in relation to the Colorado River Compact.
That means that cities like Colorado Springs depend on water on the Pacific side of the Continental Divide to survive - just like LA. Denver is in the same boat.
But the oil shale companies have done an end around. They bought land on the Pacific side of the continental divide and got the water rights. What type of land - a lot of it is hay fields. But under Colorado water law, irrigating a hay field is a "consumptive" use - meaning the water is assumed to be 100% used in the field and none of it returns to the water table. I am sure that is right.
Because agricultural use is "consumptive" it can be converted into an industrial or residential use without any reduction. So, converting 375 cubic feet per second of water from hay field watering to use in an oil shale refinery is presumed to have no impact on the Colorado River.
And I'm sure this is all they want. Ooops, maybe I missed something like this:
Shell's snap-up of about 8 percent of the Yampa's peak spring water flow (the 375/cfs referenced above - my addition) may complicate Front Range plans to move water from the river by pipeline and comes as energy companies scramble to secure water rights. Energy companies control about 26 percent of the flow and 56 percent of the water storage volume in the Upper Colorado Basin,
Thanks again to Coyote Gulch here
In addition, to listen to some oil shale companies, the needs aren't that big:
No water is used in the retort itself to process oil shale into shale oil. Actually, the retorting process produces water from the connate water in the rock and also from the sour water in the product stream.
The largest need for water is to cool the spent shale for handling and then for dust control as it is placed in the disposal facility. Water is also used in the mining and crushing operation to control dust. Potable water will also be required for the workers on the site.
It is estimated that water consumption related to the project will be in the range of 1.0 to 1.5 barrels of water for each barrel of shale oil produced. OSEC will be working with local, state and federal governments, along with other industrial users, to forecast needs in the Uinta Basin and to develop long-term programs to assure adequate water supplies.
Of course, that works out to the 375 cubic feet per second equalling a 100,000 barrel per day oil shale refinery. So, hey, let's build two.
Just expect to buy a lot of bottled water in Colorado when the pipes to Colorado Springs and Denver run dry.
Already used my diary but have to note this:
James Dobson, the 72-year-old founder of the Colorado Springs-based evangelical empire Focus on the Family, is stepping down as chairman of the organization, The Associated Press reports:
DENVER (AP) — Conservative evangelical leader James Dobson has resigned as chairman of Focus on the Family but will continue to play a prominent role at the organization he founded more than three decades ago, The Associated Press has learned.
The witch isn't dead but headed for the door.