Gas drillers must meet water law


The state is already taking steps to comply with a state Supreme Court decision that requires gas drillers to apply for a water right or replace stream flows for their coalbed methane wells.

The decision will have implications for the Arkansas Valley, since coalbed methane wells are operating in Las Animas and Huerfano counties.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday to uphold a decision by Durango Water Court Judge Gregory Lyman. In 2007, Lyman found that the water rights of Bayfield ranchers William and Elizabeth Vance and Jim and Mary Fitzgerald were adversely affected by coalbed methane wells operated by BP Petroleum near their ranches.

Prior to the ruling, the state considered the water produced in coalbed methane or other mining operations to be wastewater, which excluded it from administration under the state’s water-rights priority system.