A new report by the Environmental Protection Agency shows that streams in Wyoming are in better condition than the national average. The study collected about two thousand samples from streams nationwide to determine the quality of the water. Denise Keehner is Director of the EPA’s Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds. She says Wyoming is divided into four eco-regions – in those eco-regions water quality is poor in 26% to 43% of streams, while the national average is 55%.
The state engineer says Laramie County residents could see new restrictions on groundwater use in the future.
Much of the county gets its water from the Ogallala Aquifer, which is being depleted faster than it can recharge. The state engineer’s office is launching a study to figure out what would happen to the aquifer if current water use continues.
State Engineer Pat Tyrrell says it’s important to come up with a management plan before the water runs out.
The U-S Geological Survey released a study examining how coalbed natural gas production affects water quality in nearby streams and rivers. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden spoke with Melanie Clark, the author of the report.
HOST: In December, the Environmental Protection Agency released a draft report tentatively linking water contamination in the town of Pavillion to hydraulic fracturing activities in the area. The release of the draft report caused a spectacle, and state, federal and tribal agencies have now caught in a bureaucratic holding pattern, while residents affected by contaminated water wait in a form of investigative limbo. Wyoming Public Radio’s Tristan Ahtone attended a recent Pavillion Work Group meeting to get updates on the investigation.
The National Science Foundation announced today (Friday) that the University of Wyoming will receive a 20-million-dollar grant to study water resources in the state. It’s the largest grant ever received by the University. U-W Researcher Steve Holbrook says they hope to answer a number of water related questions and help future water managers.
Wyoming plans to install water cisterns at the homes of residents in the Pavillion area’s natural gas field. An EPA draft report suggests contaminants in area wells are connected to hydraulic fracturing, but state officials say the cause of the contamination is unknown.
As testing continues on whether fracking contaminated groundwater in the Pavillion area, Governor Matt Mead and state officials will host a meeting next week on a new way to get fresh water to citizens.
Mead says they are considering a cistern system where each resident would have a water tank to hold their water supply. Water for the tanks would be trucked from Riverton or Lander. One issue is how to pay for it. Governor Mead says the Environmental Protection Agency is not set up to help pay for such a project and getting the gas company Encana to pay is a bit tricky.
Concerns about possible water shortages have lead the Riverton City Council to adopt a drought plan and implement mild restrictions. Under the plan’s level green, there are no restrictions. The current yellow level asks residents to conserve water voluntarily. Voluntary water conservation measures include fixing leaks and avoiding watering lawns during the hottest parts of the day.
Tribal officials on the Wind River Reservation continue to seek answers after the Department of Energy announced that uranium was found in some residents' tap water. DOE officials announced last week that data collected in the fall indicated that four households near a former uranium waste site had levels of uranium nearly twice the legal limit.
Water specialists at the Natural Resources Conservation Service say that snowpack throughout the state is well below what’s average at this time of year. The northwest corner of the state is closest to what’s considered normal, but the state-wide average is 54 percent of that.
Water specialist for the NRCS, Lee Hackleman, says this could mean drought.
At a meeting with Pavillion residents this morning, Governor Mead said he wants to continue providing people with safe water.
Pavillion is at the center of an EPA investigation about whether hydraulic fracturing has contaminated the town’s drinking water supply. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease recommended that residents refrain from drinking the water AND shower with their windows open, and as a result, area oil and gas producer EnCana, and the state of Wyoming, are now paying to have bottled water delivered to residents.
The National Science Foundation has awarded Wyoming and Utah researchers six million dollars to study how Climate change and other factors will affect water storage and availability in the inter-mountain west. University of Wyoming Civil Engineering Professor Fred Ogden says the researchers will develop high-performance computer models to understand complex water issues facing western states. .