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Unconventional oil and gas development and its stresses on water resources in the context of Water-Energy-Food Nexus: The case of Weld County, CO

GC33C-1309: Unconventional oil and gas development and its
stresses on water resources in the context of Water-Energy-Food
Nexus: The case of Weld County, Colorado
The development of unconventional oil and gas resources in Colorado started to rapidly increase since the
early 2000's. The recent oil price plunge resulted in a decline of well starts' rate in the US, but in Weld County,
Colorado, it is currently at the 2013-levels. The additional water demand, despite its insignificant percentage in
overall state's demand (0.1% in 2012), it competes with traditional ones, since Colorado's water is almost fully
appropriated. Presently, the state has 53,597 active producing oil and gas wells. More than 40% of these are
located in Weld County, which happens also to be one of top food production U.S. counties. The competition
for land and water resources between the energy and agricultural sectors in water stressed areas, like the
western U.S., is further intensified if recycle and reuse practices are not preferred to water disposal by the
energy industry. Satisfying the multiple objectives of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus in order to achieve
sustainable economic development requires balanced management of these resources. Identifying pressures
on key areas that food and energy sectors are competing for water, is essential for prudent water management
and developing appropriate policies. Weld County, as a water stressed and fossil fuel producing area, was
selected for investigating current stresses on local water resources alongside with future climatic and water
demand scenarios for exploring probable long-term effects.
Panagiotis D. Oikonomou*
Colorado State University
Reagan Waskom
Colorado State University
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Karie Boone
Colorado State University
Joseph Nolte Ryan
University of Colorado at
... In 2010, the estimated irrigated parcel area in the basin was 3426 km 2 (846,634 acres) ( Colorado Decision Support Systems, 2016 ). Industrial activities are also present in the basin, including water demand for unconventional oil and gas development ( Oikonomou et al., 2016;Oikonomou et al., 2015b;Oikonomou et al., 2015c ). Groundwater plays a substantial role in meeting these water needs, particularly in the agricultural sector. ...
Groundwater level knowledge is one of the crucial information for sustainable use of groundwater resources and efficient and effective conjunctive management of surface and groundwater resources. Despite the fact that there is an increase of water related datasets collected, still groundwater information remains one of the Achilles heel in terms of analysis and modeling. The present paper is introducing a novel framework for filling data gaps in groundwater time series in an efficient scheme with low computational cost. It utilizes direct (known measurements) and auxiliary (regional groundwater model) available information. The framework employs an exogenous seasonal autoregressive integrated moving average (SARIMAX) stochastic model to describe the simulated groundwater level fluctuation process of a regional physical groundwater model and the Ensemble Smoother (ES) for predicting the water table level. The framework was evaluated by conducting three numerical experiments for five groundwater wells in the South Platte alluvial aquifer. The results indicate that this framework could serve as a valuable tool for the enhancement of groundwater time series, for both intermittent missing data and of continuous gaps with short span, which could then lift hindrances in their analysis and use in groundwater models, and thus aid water management decisions.
Drought is a complex natural hazard with its adverse multifaceted impacts cascading in every physical and human system. The vulnerability magnitude of various areas to drought mostly depends on their exposure to water deficiency, the existing water management policy framework and its implementation. The Standardized Drought Vulnerability Index (SDVI) is an integrated attempt towards characterizing drought vulnerability based on a comparative classification system, incorporating precipitation patterns, the supply and demand trends, and the socioeconomic background as the most crucial contributors to drought vulnerability. This work attempts to evolve the SDVI by presenting a more rigorous method of index parameters estimation and argues that the combination of in-situ and satellite data improve the index results in an effort to further minimize the paucity of drought related information. At the same time, it helps to surpass previous limitations in temporal and spatial propagation of the vulnerability concept. The new framework is applied in the South Platte Basin, within Colorado, on the 2012 summer drought (July-September). The proposed index modification may convey drought information in a more holistic manner to decision makers. SDVI could aid in advancing the understanding of each component contribution through in situ and remote sensing data integration and in avoiding existing practices of broken linkages and fragmentation of the reported impacts. Thus, it is believed that the SDVI could serve as an additional tool to guide decisions and target mitigation and adaptation actions, allowing for a more integrated management approach.
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