Report: Oil shale industry a threat to water
Oil shale development could threaten angling and hunting in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming because of its potential water demand, a sporting organization said in a report released Thursday.
“While water use scenarios vary greatly due to the many unknowns with this untested technology, all tests and projections concede that oil shale development is a thirsty industry,” the report by Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development said.
The Center for Oil Shale Technology and Research at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden estimates that a working oil shale industry could require about 2 percent of Colorado’s water. Agriculture requires 80 percent of the state’s water.
The Sportsmen report cites an estimate by the Government Accountability Office that industrial-scale oil shale production could require as much as 123 billion gallons, or about 377,000 acre feet of water.
Water usage in the Upper Colorado River Basin, which includes the oil shale states of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, amounts to about 4.3 million acre feet of water.
Removing water from the region’s rivers, in particular the White in Colorado and Duchesne, Green, Strawberry and Lake Fork in Utah, could have consequences for wildlife, the report said.
“With the region already straining its water supply and facing continued population growth, finding another increment of water for oil shale, while protecting native and sport fisheries, may be an insurmountable challenge,” the report said.
The report praised the Obama administration’s proposed approach limiting the amount of land available for oil shale research to about 640,000 acres or 1,000 square miles in the three-state region, as well as requiring that future experimental efforts be limited to in-situ approaches that leave the surface largely undisturbed.
“This approach is a prudent way to test oil shale potential and limit the risk to the region’s water supplies,” the report said.