A U.S. senator and representative from Colorado on Tuesday wrote to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a fellow Coloradan, urging that the federal government take steps to make so-called "produced water" from oil and gas production accessible to supplement depleted water supplies. They want drought-stricken areas, such as Colorado, to benefit from use of the byproduct of traditional fuel generation.

There are 15-20 billion barrels of produced water, an environmentally hazardous byproduct, created annually as part of the waste stream of oil/gas production, and facilities treating it are doing it successfully, according to the lawmakers.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rep. Betsy Markey (D-CO) want to see what they called green growth and domestic energy production, especially the production of natural gas as the alternative fuel of the future to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

Both Bennet and Markey told Salazar that they intend to work with Congress during the coming months to get additional funding for a federal grant program for the next fiscal year under last year's federal Consolidated Natural Resources Act.

The legislative pair contend that produced water is "by far" the largest volume byproduct or waste stream associated with oil and gas exploration and production, especially in the Colorado River Basin, which they further argued is facing chronic water shortages. "Reclamation of produced water for beneficial uses could help address all of these problems," the lawmakers said.

"We in the West know that water has always been scarce, and it will become even more scarce in the future given all the uncertainties and pressure on our water resources today [from] climate change, drought, population growth and environmental needs."

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