Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Geography

First Advisor

Mark W. Williams

Second Advisor

Patricia Limerick

Third Advisor

William Travis

Abstract

Natural gas development is controversial for a number of reasons; among them, the potential harm done to groundwater by way of aquifer drawdown or contamination. The concealed nature of groundwater makes it a frequent subject of environmental conflict in general, and factual disputes in particular, as demonstrated here by case studies from Colorado's coalbed methane (CBM) basins. In the Northern San Juan Basin, a dispute is ongoing over whether groundwater extraction will impact regional hydrology. In the Raton Basin, a dispute is underway over a single domestic well, which became unusable following the hydraulic fracturing of a nearby CBM well. In the analysis presented here, I discuss the uncertainties specific to groundwater that exacerbate factual disputes over impacts. I also present ways that researchers might engage in these disputes. I present a neutral fact-finding effort using isotopic/geochemical tracers and a monitoring guide designed to enable joint fact-finding at individual wells.

Share

COinS