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The Colorado Water Watch Program

‘Hydraulic fracturing’ or ‘Fracking’ has become highly controversial in recent years. More than 90 percent of new wells in the US are completed using this technology. While it is endorsed by some as a game-changer that promises increase in the nation’s economy due to energy independence, job creation, and lower energy prices; others are calling for a temporary moratorium or a complete ban on fracking due to environmental concerns. Debating whether fracking should continue has led people to choose between two starkly different views: “yes, it’s too valuable” and “no, it’s too high a risk”. Choosing a side without being provided the information to make an informed decision appears to be due to the lack of valid and credible data available. The government has identified and employed practices to mitigate the risks associated with fracking operations in Colorado. Nonetheless, there remain questions by some about whether the regulated practices are sufficiently protective, - leading to continued mistrust among the public.

To address this uncertainty and confusion, the Center for Energy Water Sustainability (CEWS) at Colorado State University has developed a real-time groundwater monitoring system in the Denver-Julesburg basin, called the Colorado Water Watch (CWW). Colorado Water Watch is a state and privately funded program brought together by a team of engineers and scientists from the Center of Energy Water Sustainability, making it a neutral third party independent of influence from various parties with interests in this topic (e.g. industry or environmental non-governmental organizations). The goal of this project is to gather groundwater monitoring data in real time, and analyze and report it in real or near-real time, depending on whether the data requires further evaluation. The project is designed to bridge the gap between fears about public health impacts caused by oil and natural gas development and the assumption that industry environmental and health practices are reliable.