Colorado Requires Testing Near Fracked Wells

On January 7, 2013, Colorado’s Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) approved new groundwater protection rules.

Operators must sample all available water sources (to a maximum of four) located within one-half mile of the drilling site, both before and after drilling activities. There must be one pre-drilling sample and two subsequent samples (one within 6 to 12 months and a second within 60 to 72 months) following completion of the well. The pre-drilling sample must be tested for a full suite of analytes to provide a baseline, while the subsequent samples need only be tested for specific oil and gas indicator constituents.

The results of the testing must be provided to the COGCC in an electronic format for posting to the Commission’s website and to the water well owner or landowner within 3 months of collecting the samples.

The rules provide that “[r]esults of sampling obtained to satisfy the [Rule] requirements…, including any changes in the constituents or concentrations of constituents present in the samples, shall not create liability or a presumption of liability against the owner or operator of a well… .”

In the Greater Wattenberg Area (GWA) of northeastern Colorado, the COGCC has set different sampling rules due to the “combination of energy development, agriculture and other industrial and residential use unique to the area.”

In the GWA, the operator must sample one available water source per governmental quarter section or within one-half mile radius if there is no source in the quarter section.

There must be a pre-drilling sample (tested for a full suite of analytes) and one subsequent sample within 6 to 12 months of completion (tested for specific oil and gas indicator constituents).

Also, the COGCC advised that these new rules would exist side-by-side with Weld County’s program that provides water well testing to any well owner requesting it.

Read the COGCC press release.
Read COGCC's groundwater protection rules.

This article was prepared by Barclay R. Nicholson ( or 713 651 3662) from Fulbright's Energy Practice.