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The energy-water nexus

Jon Haubert //July 28, 2015//

The energy-water nexus

Jon Haubert //July 28, 2015//

Colorado’s natural environment has always been central to our state’s character, economy and worldwide appeal.  Our state regulators have repeatedly enforced tough regulations designed to ensure that our environment remains protected alongside energy development.

For decades, elected officials have worked across party lines to bring together communities, scientists, health experts, energy companies and environmentalists to identify commonsense rules.  As a result, Colorado has become a national leader in responsible energy development and often hailed as a national model.

Unfortunately, this information doesn’t always get out, but educational efforts focused on boosting transparency and publishing energy-related information are finally catching up.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission – the state agency tasked with monitoring oil and gas development – now posts all regulations directly on its website, making it one of the most transparent regulators in the country. In May, the COGCC modernized its website, making it even easier for Coloradans to get the facts on development in or near their community., the public website that hosts fracking fluid ingredients, recently expanded its public disclosure registry to include downloadable datasets for ease of analyzing patterns and trends. In the past, data about fracking ingredients was available on a well-by-well basis and difficult to sort through or export. With nearly 100,000 wells registered, this made collecting and analyzing chemical disclosures a chore for researchers and the public alike.

The ongoing emphasis to educate Coloradans about scientific, economic and environmental benefits of responsible energy development appears to be building momentum. As efforts focused on transparency continue, new and innovative ideas are starting to flow beyond that of just oil and gas.

Locating and understanding water rights has long been a tedious and time consuming process. In the past, water rights research for real estate and water transactions required several different government websites to find land ownership, water rights data, and collection could require in-person visits to courts and agencies.

Water Sage is a new interactive, Web-based information and research portal for water rights, water wells, and land information. Developers built a system that condenses hours of research in conventional systems, into a matter of minutes, and doesn’t require advanced technical knowledge or GIS to operate. Subscribers can search and filter statewide datasets and Water Sage’s databases link owners of record to physical well locations, land parcels and land ownership, along with key attributes of water wells and rights, including permitted use. Water Sage mitigates the risks of under-informed use of freshwater sources. Data in the system is updated regularly, ensuring high quality, reliable records in an efficient, easy to use platform.

The ability to visualize water rights, water wells, and land information in concert makes for a powerful tool with many applications. It’s changing the way just about everyone looks at water in the West. Currently, Water Sage is available in Colorado, Montana, Texas and Wyoming with plans to add several more states this year.

As transparency about energy and environmental information increase, citizens and companies are benefiting from data sharing breakthroughs like these.  More questions are being answered up front and conflicts resolved before issues arise – and that’s good news for individuals and industries everywhere.

(Editor’s note: This paid content was sponsored by the Western Energy Alliance.)