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Know the West

Water is more precious than gas


Dear HCN,

Thanks for the recent article on coalbed methane (CBM) in the Powder River Basin (HCN, 11/5/01: Wyoming's powder keg). While some of our issues here in the Raton Basin are slightly different - fewer ranchers, more rural residential development, no celebrity poster child - we appreciate any visibility that CBM development gets. The change that is possible from the scale of development being contemplated is truly frightening when one loves the land.

One point of clarification: Hal Clifford's article incorrectly states, "In Colorado, coalbed methane water is reinjected into deep strata." While that method of disposal is common in the San Juan Basin, here in the Colorado portion of the Raton Basin, most wells have their produced water discharged to pits or to the surface ("state waters"). The water being produced here is sufficiently high in quality that the CEO of one CBM company appeared on videotape boastfully drinking water right out of a CBM well. In fact, the U.S. Geological Survey in a 1989 publication identified the coalbed aquifers as the most reliable water sources available for future growth and development of the region.

It seems a travesty in a semi-arid climate that our precious water is being pumped and drained away with little the public can do about it. One would never know from CBM development that water is more precious to life than natural gas and electricity. Keep up the good work.

Jenifer Morrissey
Aguilar, Colorado