February 29, 2024

Industrial Water Challenges in the Mountain West: Leaders Explore Solutions Amidst Uncertainty

Earlier this month, WestWater hosted a forum at the University of Denver to discuss “Perspectives on Industrial Water in the Mountain West.” The forum brought together industry leaders, including Richard Belt (Beltwater Inc.), Grant Tupper (Select Water Resources), and David Steed (K.C. Harvey Environmental), for a panel discussion moderated by WestWater’s Adam Jokerst.

The panel provided a comprehensive examination of the interplay between water resources and various industrial sectors. Across the West, energy utilities have showcased a reluctance to relinquish water rights,

anticipating the water demands of future renewable energy ventures. Furthermore, there remains significant uncertainty regarding the future energy market, exacerbating the challenge of predicting future water demands. Meanwhile, oil and gas companies have grappled with escalating water requirements per well, compounded by seasonal water availability limitations and the strain of public perception. Similarly, the mining industry has faced the rising challenge of water security and availability.

In response, mines have been adding increased priority to the development of long-term water sustainability strategies. Preparing for the water demands and challenges of the future was a key theme across the industrial sector. Excel Energy has exemplified adaptability, preparing infrastructure for potential energy sector shifts. Likewise, prospects for alternative energy sources such as hydrogen and pumped-storage hydropower are being explored. In the oil and gas sector, optimizing water resource use and enabling the reuse of produced water are critical for future operations. For mines, reuse also presents an opportunity mingled with continued challenges around permitting and costs.

Amidst industry transformations, the imperative for water-conscious practices resonated as a unifying theme, shaping future industrial water management paradigms in the Mountain West.