Las Animas County Colorado – Residents Have No Water!

Could that be the headline in just a few short years if things aren’t changed?

I am sending this letter to you at Trinidadco.com in hopes that you will publish it.

I think that it is entirely possible that you could read this headline in the near future and let me share with you why.

In approximately 2003-2004 when most of Colorado was in a severe drought the City of Trinidad instituted water restrictions for Trinidad City residents and all those that have city water taps. Trinidad’s water supply comes from North Lake on Highway 12 and the water was going out faster than it was recharging. We had no snow pack to speak of for a few years and that snow pack is what supplies the water to North Lake.

Not only were local residents on water restriction but most of the state was too including Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Denver.  Walsenburg was also affected with their main water source almost drying up. Those were pretty scary times and while we currently have above average snow pack all of us know how unpredictable our weather is here in Colorado.

It was shared with me that during a City Meeting when they put the water restriction on local residents that a comment was made something to the effect of “What about all the County Residents that are hauling water from Trinidad, why don’t you stop them from hauling City Water?”  Well that brings up a good point. A point that Las Animas County should consider because to my knowledge Las Animas County does not own any sources of public water. (Or do they? I would love to know for sure if they do but don’t think so.)

In the mean time as Pioneer Resources and other local Methane Gas Drilling companies dispose of millions of gallons of ground water every day, considered a waste by product in their industry, they fight along with County and City officials to stop State proposed restrictions that could seriously impact their industry I am left wondering how Las Animas County officials are preparing now to protect the residents of Las Animas County if and when the headlines read “Las Animas County Colorado Residents have no Water!” Or maybe they just haven’t considered this yet. I am hoping that they do soon.

Currently all sources of water that County residents have available to them are from City Supplied Water Sources. So worse case scenario would be that we go back into a serious drought and our city water supply, North Lake, starts to go down to seriously low levels what would City officials do? Would it be safe to assume that since this is City Water that the “City” would protect city resident’s only leaving County Residents to fend for themselves? I for one cannot answer this question with any certainty but I think I know the answer.

If you are the owner of a Domestic Water Well in Las Animas County did you know that you can’t sell your water even to a neighbor? In fact if you take more than one acre foot of water from your Domestic Well in one year the State Division of Water Resources can and most likely will shut your well down by capping it. But at the same time the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission and the State of Colorado allows unrestricted removal of water from the methane well drilling operations. (Also according to State Law you are not allowed to collect the water from your roof)

The Colorado Division of Water Resources, even though they regulate the water usage your Domestic Water Supply, turn their heads and give up their authority when it comes to water produced, wasted and disposed of by the Gas Companies regulated by the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission. Now I reason that the existence of the Colorado Division of Water Resources is to preserve water. So it really is a concern that they are not involved or showing a concern and turning a blind eye to this issue either.

Here are some questions to consider:

Do you think that the Gas Well Drilling operations removing and disposing of millions of gallons of water, mostly from wells on every other 40-acre parcel, and in some areas even closer spacing, in the county west of I-25 would affect your domestic water supply if you lived here? Common sense tells me that it would, no matter that the Gas Companies hold to their claim that it doesn’t and won’t affect our ground water.

Are the officials of Las Animas County doing something to prepare for a lack of potable water by County Residents as a result of this water removal Gas Companies?

Let’s do a visual and take a look at a map of the current permitted Gas Wells that the Gas Companies are removing the water from. If this doesn’t give you cause for concern I don’t know what will. Every permitted gas well location pumps the water from the ground so that they de-water the coal seams so that the methane gas will release.

COGCCMap.jpg
Here is a map from the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission’s website interactive map showing all of the current and pending permitted wells in Las Animas County and the surrounding areas. You can also view the map after downloading a special viewer. What this map shows is the current methane wells in red that have been drilled and the ones pending in green.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission has a Mission Statement on their web page that I will share with you here:

The mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) is to promote the responsible development of Colorado’s oil and gas natural resources.

 

Responsible development results in:

 

  • The efficient exploration and production of oil and gas resources “in a manner consistent with the protection of public health, safety and welfare”

  • “The prevention of waste”

  • The protection of mineral owners’ correlative rights

  • The prevention and mitigation of adverse environmental impacts

The COGCC seeks to serve, solicit participation from, and maintain working relationships with all those having an interest in Colorado’s oil and gas natural resources.

I show in bold type that their mission is to protect the public welfare and to prevent waste.

Do you feel that the disposal of millions of water daily is in the best interest of the public? Are we the public or is someone else, who are they protecting? Is the precious resource “water” not something that should be preserved? Water is much more important to our survival and quality of life than Methane Gas but since Methane Gas has a higher dollar value at this point in time I guess its okay to overlook the importance of water.

So it seems that since the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission has overlooked our ground water as something that is important to the general public that it would be up to our Las Animas County Officials to look after our best interests, but are they? You tell me.

We all take a chance when we purchase property in Las Animas County knowing that there is just as much of a chance in getting a dry water well even drilling down to 800-1000 feet as their is in getting water. It would seem now that that chance has increased in the direction of drilling a well that has no water and or one that will go dry quicker.

From what I understand the Gas Companies deny that they are affecting or could affect our ground water supply. I guess that their stance is that there is no proof that they are affecting our ground water supply. I content that there is more proof that they are and do affect our water supply. But who is looking after our interests. When the gas is all gone and the Gas Companies have packed their bags and gone on to the next big gas field and we have no ground water what are we to do?

Will the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission or the Gas Companies bring us water to your home to replace what they removed from the ground when your well goes dry? Will the City of Trinidad be okay with supplying water to all the County Residents in Las Animas County or will it be City Water.

Currently there is and has been a moratorium on City Water Taps outside the city limits. But what if most residents in the County have had their water wells go dry where will they get their water?

Note: There are no commercial wells that are approved for public consumption in Las Animas County and Las Animas County does not own any water that I am aware of.

In addition most local towns and town with water supplies will not allow you to purchase water unless you are a County Resident and can prove it. So let me ask you how far you are willing to go and at what expense to continue to supply water to your household after all the water is gone? If you and most of the County have no water what do you feel your property will be worth?

While the City of Trinidad and Las Animas County officials are joining forces with the Gas Companies fighting to block the state from regulating their industry too strictly I ask you just who is fighting for you and your rights and your right to good ground water?

This topic has been about ground water removal in Las Animas County Colorado and did not touch on the topic of ground water polution. Since all of our ground water souces are mostly underground streams and not aquifer water if your water well is in the same stream that is being drilled and frac’ed by the Gas Companies then anything they use in that process will be in your water in minutes not years. This should not be overlooked any longer either.

I hope that the people of Las Animas County Colorado wake up before it is too late and the headline above comes to be a reality.

Signed,

A Concerned Resident of Las Animas County

 

Trinidadco.com agreed to publish the above article.