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Posted: April 01, 2014

Fracking may save water

In arid states like Colorado, switch to natural gas may alleviate water scarcity

(Sponsored Energy Section)

Critics of hydraulic fracturing like to point to the amount of water it requires, typically millions of gallons per well. But compared to other industries, the amount of water used for hydraulic fracturing across the state is actually tiny – about 0.1 percent of Colorado’s total demand according to the Colorado Division of Water Resources.

And the natural gas from fracking may also help save water in other parts of the state economy. For example, a recent story in Time magazine says fracking may help alleviate  water scarcity, because natural gas development has enabled a switch from older, coal-burning power plants that use even more water in the long run. 

Colorado is often looked at as a leader in terms of new, modern methods of delivering efficient and affordable energy to its residents. The story, which appeared in the Dec. 23 2013 issue of Time, cited a study by researchers from the University of Texas at Austin showing that fracking for natural gas appears to save water in the aggregate.  

Evidence that fracking does not use as much water as some have come to believe is welcomed by Tom Clark, the CEO of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., who is used to fielding questions about water use and the benefits of hydraulic fracturing.

Moreover, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission points out that because Colorado’s water-rights system is based in the prior appropriation doctrine, water cannot be simply diverted from a stream/reservoir or pumped out of the ground for hydraulic fracturing without reconciling that diversion with the prior appropriation system.

Like any other water user, companies that hydraulically fracture oil and gas wells must adhere to Colorado water laws when obtaining and using specific sources of water for this purpose.

In addition to its potential ability to help alleviate water scarcity, the switch from coal to cheaper and cleaner natural gas has helped the United States to significantly cut our carbon emissions. In his most recent State of the Union speech, President Obama remarked on the positive impact of natural gas development, saying that “Taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet. Over the past eight years the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth.”

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