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Joint Online Water Monitoring Debuts in Colorado

An Internet-based groundwater monitoring technology was introduced in Colorado Wednesday in a joint effort by a university researcher, major oil/natural gas operator, environmental group and the state.

Colorado Water Watch (http://waterwatch.colostate.edu) is the first of its kind and will supplement groundwater testing that companies, such as Noble Energy Inc., already perform to comply with state law, said Ken Carlson, the project leader and an associate civil and environmental engineering professor at Colorado State University (CSU).

The new service, which will expand its monitoring locations threefold by the end of the year, has been funded by Noble and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). They participate on a project steering committee along with the Western Resources Advocates environmental group.

Carlson said his CSU team designed and applied a systematic approach to plan and execute the real-time monitoring. Team members obtained scientifically valid and reliable results that he said can be easily applied to support a large-scale implementation.

"Basically, we look for any evidence of oil/gas activity, and if it is found, the COGCC takes over using its normal protocol," Carlson said on Wednesday after the service was previewed at a CSU Natural Gas Symposium in Denver.

Noble and COGCC have provided $1.2 million for the development of the first 12 sampling stations, of which there are four operating now. Data is available online from three monitoring wells near Greeley, Eaton and Gilcrest, all of which are surrounded by oil/gas activity. A fourth control well is operated at the CSU Agricultural Research Development and Education Center in Fort Collins.

"Noble and COGCC funded the initial two phases, but we are hoping to expand to other operators and maybe other basins," Carlson told NGI Wednesday. Noble's Ted Brown, senior vice president, said Water Watch is an example of Colorado "leading the way on many fronts; it involves leveraging technology to develop trust."

Carlson said he hopes that tools like the new water monitoring system will be part of the discussions kicked off today in Denver with the first meeting of the governor's statewide task force on local concerns about oil/gas activity. The meeting runs all day with a two-hour public comment portion of the agenda (see Shale Daily, Sept. 24).

Earlier this year, another web-based program was offered by the University of Colorado Boulder's Water and Energy Research Center with the advent of a free, downloadable guide for individuals to collect baseline data on their well water quality and monitor groundwater quality over time.

“Monitoring Water Quality in Areas of Oil and Natural Gas Development: A Guide for Water Well Users” is available in PDF format at http://cwerc.colorado.edu.

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