Agencies, energy companies track western Colo. water quality

CRAIG (AP) — A western Colorado water district has received a state grant to work with energy companies and local governments to track water quality and quantity in the south Piceance Basin as the area’s natural gas boom continues.
The West Divide Water Conservancy District has received $300,000 from levies on mineral production to help establish a database.
The U.S. Geological Survey will gather all the existing data on area water for a Web site that will be available to the public. USGS will administer the site.
EnCana Oil and Gas (USA) is one of the energy companies working with the water district and state and federal agencies on the project. EnCana is contributing $20,000 toward the estimated $600,000 cost.
EnCana spokesman Doug Hock said the towns, counties, agencies and businesses teaming up on the project have about $8,000 more to raise. The goal is to have the Web site operational by mid-2009.
“It’s an outgrowth of the concern about the impacts to water’’ from energy production,” Hock said. “It’s in everybody’s interest to have a reliable, uniform database in terms of water quality and quantity.’’
Williams Co., another major producer in the Piceance Basin, has pitched in $20,000.
“We think this is a great tool for everyone. It puts everyone on the same page as far as the data is concerned,’’ Williams spokeswoman Donna Gray said.
Other companies helping match the state funds are Chevron, Shell Exploration and Production, Genesis Energy and Berry Petroleum.
Maria Pastore, a consultant for the water district, said a great deal of information already exists on the area’s water, including results from sampling by companies and government agencies.
“The information has been stored in different places,’’ Pastore said. “This provides a tremendous opportunity to pull all the data into one place and make it accessible.’’
She added that it will also show where the gaps in information are.
The rising rate of gas drilling in the Piceance Basin has raised concerns about the effects on public health and the environment, including potential water pollution.
Garfield County, in the Piceance Basin, led all counties last year in the number of drilling permits issued at 2,550.
Through April 7, the state issued 689 permits in Garfield County and a total of 1,777 statewide.