A non-partisan, neutral perspective supporting diversity in the color of water

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


Greywacke is a strange rock. Hard, poorly sorted, some sand-sized grains composed of a complex mineralogic composition within a clay matrix that remained mysterious in sorting out the depositional environment until "turbidites" were discovered. "Greywackes are mostly grey, brown, yellow or black, dull-colored sandy rocks which may occur in thick or thin beds along with shales and limestones." Greywackes can be oil and gas reservoirs or host gold deposits. There is so much greywacke in New Zealand that a wine is named for it.

Fracking fluids are used to hydraulically fracture rocks for the primarily for the purposes of recovering oil and gas, but also in some instances to recover geothermal heat, and drinking water. Greyfracke is the chaotic by-product fluid associated with  hydrofracking which looks like the hydrologic equivalent to greywacke - a complex, mysterious, melange. I coined the term greyfracke because conceptually this diagram depicts the additives to hydraulic fracturing fluids with the chaotic display of the geochemical makeup that constitutes only "1/2 to 2 percent of the fluid" with the rest of the "brew" composed of water.  A little bit goes a long way - sometimes too far away from the point of injection.

Yes, sometimes it takes water to make water, and the ultimate goal of using blasting or hydrofracking on water wells is to "turn dry holes into wet ones".  The State of Wyoming Water Development Commission undertook experiments here and here on fracking water wells using oil field technology in the early 1990s with great success - so much so, that the process becomes the second chance on many of their groundwater development projects, and eventually became SOP on some new wells tapping limestone aquifers. Sometimes a good thing can become too good of a good thing resulting in quite a mess. And that is what appears to may have happened to some private wells located near the City of Gillette, Wyoming wellfield.

According to this article in WyoFile, "At least four of the five new Gillette wells have been enhanced with acid fracking..." and "A week after both Cranston’s well and his less-productive backup went dry, the family drilled another pair. All four family wells were about 100 to 200 feet deep, much shallower than the new Gillette-Madison wells. But the new water didn’t seem right. The family called a testing company and discovered a very low pH of 3.9 — on the acidic side of the logarithmic scale and well below normal potable levels that range from 6 to 8.5.

Sounds like Greyfracke.

Conflicts over the impacts to groundwater as a by-product of hydrofracking oil and gas wells is the subject of "docudramas" such as the Gasland series, and FrackNation. I prepared the Circle of Conflict to depict how complex conflicts over hydrofracking can become, but the conflict has morphed into a "conflict over using water to make water" with the recent Wyoming situation.

As one reviews the WyoFile article, it is easy to see "hydrohysteria" emerging with the trifecta of conflict triggers - identity-based conflict focusing on the construction of the wells, investment-based conflict based on the WWDC and WDEQ investigating who was to blame, and the private wellowners interests on non-traditional urban-rural setbacks (urban water infrastructure impinging on the rural way of life), concerns over well surface seals, and pre-and post-frac sampling of nearby private wells.

Who says oil field technology and water don't mix?

Update: Check out the *new* solution to hydrofracking without all of the fuss of *greyfracke* - supercritical CO2!
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Drillers had been working atop Pine Ridge above the Cranston ranch, according to the News-Record. The original Madison project was drilled into the floor of the neighboring valley, but planners chose the higher site for the new phase to reduce the number of pumping stations and save almost $10 million. As a consequence, drillers were probing through several hundred feet for which they didn’t have the geologic information acquired for the original well field. In a sense, they were drilling blind.
~WyoFile article

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Unique Greywater Thesis

The University of Alaska Anchorage Civil Engineering program is completing some very important research on greywater reuse where the goal is not to fear greywater, but embrace it!
Development of a Physicochemical Greywater Reuse Treatment System for Intentional Human Contact

by Gregory Michaelson


Some rural Alaskan communities rely on self-haul systems to get water and dispose of waste, a time and labor intensive practice. Water quantity is limited and conserved in households on self-haul systems. As a result, water wash disease rates are high in communities that lack running water and sewer. Building centralized water systems in rural communities is expensive and more difficult in cold climate regions located off the road system. The Alaska Water and Sewer challenge project investigates alternatives to centralized systems to provide sufficient water service to homes in unserved communities in rural Alaska. A prototype was built, adapted and tested for about 1 year to evaluate viability of an in-home greywater reuse system. Water quality goals were met during testing as meeting Direct Potable Reuse standards. Critical Control Points (CCPs) have been identified for this treatment system through the design development process, pathogen testing and micropollutant/water quality sampling. All testing was completed at full scale for a 4-person household using a daily water volume of 58 gallons. Recommendations have been made to integrate CCPs into system automation based on parameters used to describe treatment process efficiency. Alarms and shutoff functions need to be integrated into the system to ensure functionality and health protection by CCPs. Implementing these controls and alarms into the system will add to system robustness and protect public health for eventual installation of systems into homes. Through these efforts, we hope to help contribute to the long-term solution of improving public health by increasing water quantity and availability in rural Alaskan households.

Unfortunately, the University of Alaska Anchorage has the thesis buried behind the ProQuest Dissertations Publishing firewall. But if you have access to a university library, check it out!
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One of Alaska's strengths is our pioneer role in 
environmentally sensitive development. 
~Former US Senator and Governor of Alaska Frank Murkowski

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Greywater Gets Legoed

Congratulations to the *3B*s for their greywater reuse project constructed using LEGO robotics. This article in BayToday provides all of the constructive details of the competition with this year's theme focusing on hydrodynamics!

“We’ve made a greywater reuse system to flush toilets and it can use any source of grey water,” Rory and Katelyn said, two of the six members of the all-girls team. “These sources include dishwasher, bath, shower, washing machine, sump pump and rain barrels and you can use any of them.”

Just another of the many grey(t) school projects tracked by the Rainbow Water Coalition.
* * * 
“When Ole Kirk Kristiansen established the company name LEGO in 1934, it was a fortunate play on words. The entrepreneur had been inspired by the Danish phrase "leg godt" - "play well." He took the beginning of each respective word and made what he considered to be a pleasant-sounding, imaginary word out of them. The company owner was unaware that as the first person present singular of the verb legere, "lego" is also the Latin word for "I assemble" - and therefore completely appropriate for the modularity of the company's later invention, the LEGO brick.” 
~ Christian Humberg, 50 Years of the Lego Brick [With 6 Legos]

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Business of Water

The Business of Water is getting increased attention, from the many water-focused Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) with double-digit returns, conferences with catchy titles, to courses with the same catchy titles offered at both Georgetown University and Oregon State University (OSU). The Business of Water course at OSU uses this book as a textbook.

A concept note for a *waterMBA* was for a joint degree program between the Water Resources Graduate Program and College of Business (COB) at OSU, but the effort ran out of steam with the appointment of a new COB dean. An opportunity lost to others.

So, what is news in the Business of Water and why all of the attention? How about "The Flow Meters Market Is Estimated At USD 6.81 Billion In 2017 And Is Projected To Reach USD 9.30 Billion By 2022"?

And the connection to greywater?

Asia Pacific is projected to lead the flow meters market during the forecast period. On the basis of region, the flow meters market has been segmented into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, South America, and the Middle East & Africa. Asia Pacific is projected to lead the flow meters market during the forecast period. The growth can be attributed to the increasing demand for water & waste water treatment (which includes greywater recycling, purge treatment, biogas measurement, and effluent treatment) due to the rising demand from the irrigation industry.

Key companies supplying flow meters are:

  • Honeywell (US)
  • Siemens (Germany)
  • Emerson Electric Co. (US)
  • ABB Ltd. (Switzerland)
  • Yokogawa Electric (Japan)
  • Azbil (Japan)
  • Badger Meter (US)
  • Krohne Messtechnik (Germany)
  • Schneider Electric (France)
  • Endress Hauser (Switzerland)
  • Litre Meter (UK)
  • Sierra Instruments (US)
  • SICK AG (US)
  • Seametrics (US)
  • EQUFLOW (Netherlands)

Kudos to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater for capitalizing on home-grown talent by recruiting the CEO of Badger Meter to their Institute for Water Business Advisory Board.

So, don't squander this bullish market. Invest in water.
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“Don't cry over the shots you've missed; 
weep over the ones you've not taken at all. 
The bitterest regrets are for things planned but left undone!”