The value of water?

Thanks to Michael Compana’s Twitter feed, I just came across this paper from the engineering firm, CH2M Hill. The company completed the report, “The Changing Value of Water to the US Economy: Implications from Five Industrial Sectors,” as part of a project contracted to them by the US Environmental Protection Agency. 

The paper is about the changing value of water across five industrial sections: semiconductor manufacturing, thermal power generation, mining, chemicals, and oil and gas.

Pretty relevant to New Mexico, right? Although many of the test cases are not in New Mexico (for example, the authors profile Intel’s operations in Arizona, rather than here), we support many of those industries. And, of course, the mining industry is currently working with the state of New Mexico to create new rules related to water quality and copper mining in the state.

I was excited to open up the paper, but disappointed as I read it. For instance, the CH2M Hill authors take industry claims at face-value and don’t actually quantify the changing value of water (which is what I thought the paper was about, based on its title). Basically, it’s a collection of case studies that ends with this conclusion: “The availability and accessibility of water is immensely important to the U.S. economy because water is critical to maintaining business continuity and supporting growth in production, both in the short term and long term.”

(As an aside: Having worked in the consulting industry before becoming a journalist–I worked in the field of cultural resources–I’d be interested to know how much EPA paid CH2M Hill to complete this paper.)

All that said, the paper has some interesting information within it.  Here’s an excerpt of the section on oil and gas, for instance:

The oil & gas industry handles a larger volume of water than it does oil. It is estimated that the U.S. oil & gas industry will use 72 billion gallons of water in 2012,19 for a range of different activities. The industry relies on water of varied quality, including fresh water, brackish water (water with a level of salinity between freshwater and seawater), and seawater. The largest volume of water is used in enhanced oil recovery (where water is injected into the oil-bearing formation to increase the yield of the reservoir), followed by use in drilling and completion of oil and gas wells. Water is also used in petroleum refineries, especially for cooling systems. Over the years, the oil industry has adopted practices to manage water effectively to meet its needs and manage water-related risks.

You can read the entire paper online at: http://t.co/yKWSPOiK

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