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Water Quality

“What we have to understand is if we have existing water quality issues, adding a pumping system is not going to fix that problem,” said Canfax Research Services Manager Brenna Grant. 

Grant was featured during a water quality presentation sponsored by Beef Cattle Research Council, where she presented on different types of water pumps, as well as how to determine if a pump is a worthwhile investment for producers. 

Water and cattle health

Grant explained it's very important for producers to understand the close relationship between water intake and food intake. 

“Improved water palatability increases both water and food consumption,” said Grant. “In one study calves with access to clean, pumped water were on average 18 pounds heavier at weaning time.” 

Grant continued, “As cows drink more water, they spend more time eating and therefore produce more milk for their calves.”

Grant explained it is important to understand if the water has an undesirable taste, cows are going to drink less. She noted a number of quality issues can affect the taste and overall quality of the water, which causes them to drink less. 

“The effectiveness of any water treatment in improving cattle weight gains appeared to be related to improved water palatability,” Grant said.

Benefits of pumps

“One of the key benefits of adding a pump system to an existing water source is increased water source life,” Grant said. “Pumps can also decrease localized soil erosion.” 

Grant noted pumps are also a safer alternative for winter watering because heavily iced over water can pose a threat for injury.

“Water pumps can also be beneficial to the environment as they can lure cattle away from other sources such as rivers and creeks,” said Grant. “Cows will often poop in the water, which runs the risk of moving downstream and spreading bacteria.” 

She noted cows often choose a trough or tank over other types of watering systems which can be beneficial to delicate riparian ecosystems. 

“When given a choice, cattle will drink from a trough eight times out of 10, even if they have access to surface water,” according to Grant. 

“An off-site watering system away from wetlands, creeks and rivers can maintain the integrity and supply of those systems,” said Grant. “But if cattle have never seen a trough before, training them to drink from one is necessary.”

Economics by system 

“There are a number of different systems producers can choose from to best fit their programs,” said Grant. “The estimated costs can range between $9,500 and $14,000 but can go up or down depending on the availability of materials in a specific area and whether or not an aeration system is put in place as well.” 

She noted the cost of these systems does not include the cost on a well. 

“It has been determined a herd of 100-plus is needed to make adding a pump system economically beneficial,” she said. “For example, a herd of 50 would take 10 years to pay off an underground pipe and a lot of things can happen in 10 years.”

“The five-year net benefits were also shown to be negative for 50 pair herds,” she explained. “And even with 100 pairs, that net-benefit is still negative with the more expensive underground pipe system.” 

Effects on ADG

“We know the more water cattle drink, the more they eat. But a 2005 study on cow/calf pairs further proved this theory,” said Grant 

She explained the study was conducted in two periods in the summer and compared pairs with access to pumped water to those with direct access to surface water. 

“In this study, both cows and calves showed additional gains,” she said. 

She explained the cows gained a total of 22 and 26 pounds in periods one and two respectively. This came out to cows that were nearly 50 pounds heavier.

“The calves also experienced gains and were 16 pounds heavier at the end of the two periods,” Grant explained. 

“With steers the study compared treated and untreated pump systems,” said Grant. “Steers in the first quarter untreated group gained one-fourth of what their treated counterparts gained,” Grant commented. “The second period yielded less dramatic results and the untreated steers actually gained slightly more.” 

The final totals for the untreated and treated groups were 10 and 20 total pounds gained respectively, according to Grant. 

Callie Hanson is the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper – Following a formal comment period on baseline water testing rules, the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission held a public meeting on Oct. 15 to hear final comments and receive a better understanding of comments already submitted.

“Our objective is to capture any new thoughts from the public,” said Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Supervisor Grant Black during the meeting. 

Governor’s Natural Resources Policy Advisor Jerimiah Reiman further noted, “We are looking to find those significant or substantive comments and information that we should support those changes. This is one more opportunity to put those ideas on the table.”

Water testing

“We hope, as we are the folks who are going to implement this rule and do the work on the ground, that the Commission considers our comments carefully,” remarked Tim Barber of Yates Petroleum.

Yates Petroleum was concerned about water sources that are appropriate for sampling and disclosure of testing results.

“One of the things that we asked the Commission to look very closely at is what sort of water sources are appropriate to be sampled,” Barber said. “We don’t want to put our people in a situation where they are withdrawing water from a water source that is not a legal appropriation.”

As a result, he continued that the Commission should carefully consider the definition of a water source to clarify that only legally appropriated water sources are tested.

Testing was of concern to several energy operators in the area.

As a result of the need for increased testing, operators worried about approved vendors for water quality testing to ensure high quality test results.

Privacy

An additional concern of oil and gas operators was the release of information to the public. As the rule stands, the water quality testing information will be publicly released. 

“This is the only rule that requires results of sampling from privately-appropriated waters to be disposed to the public,” says Barber. “We feel like this disclosure of the results of water analysis is a very oddball approach to regulations.”

He continued that little value results from releasing the private data to the public.

“There are a lot of reasons water source owners may not want their data disclosed,” Barber added. “The point is, the public does not need the data, and there is no added value in providing it.” 

He further noted that Yates Petroleum feels that fewer landowners will give permission to operators to sample their water if the disclosure requirement remains in place.

Economic impact

Another top concern for several operators was the economic viability for small producers, particularly coalbed methane operators. 

Terry Webster of Summit Gas Resources noted that in many cases, a separate set of parameters is required for coalbed methane operators, but the sampling procedures in this rule are not differentiated.

The Department of Environmental Quality, for example, lists separate parameters for coalbed methane and oil and gas.

“I also wonder,” Webster added, “if there has been an economic analysis to find out what sort of impacts this rule has on operators.”

As a small company, he noted that the rule could be very onerous and detrimental.

“We are probably looking at a third party to do the testing, and those costs should be considered,” said Webster. “I think an economic analysis should be required before the rule moves forward.”

The additional costs of testing could be economically harmful, particularly for small operators.

Environmental community

Members of the Wyoming Outdoor Council (WOC) and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) also provided comments on the rule with concerns about maintaining the water quality.

“We do feel, on the whole, that the rule can provide the state, industry and Wyoming residents important information,” noted Amber Wilson of the WOC. “We are confident it will help establish Wyoming as a leader in management of oil and gas and protection of water resources.”

Wilson noted that the WOC’s concern with the rule was held in that master plans, which are available for companies, are not reviewed or available to the public.

“The WOC and EDF understand that if the plans are a way to coordinate required testing protocols to improve data management or to seek efficiencies, it could be positive,” she explained. “We feel it requires careful clarification of the language.”

Dissolved methane levels

One area of contention between the WOC and EDF and operators was the level of dissolved methane allowed in water.

“Initially, the testing level for dissolved methane was set at one milligram per liter,” said John Goldstein of EDF. “It was changed to 10 milligrams per liter, which is the immediate notification level. We feel that having that set at the same level is a big weakness that could be fixed.”

Dissolved methane levels, Goldstein noted, could act like a canary in the coalmine, warning water users of potential problems before they get to dangerous levels.

Mark Hansworth of Chesapeake Energy noted that reporting levels across the country range from two milligrams per liter to seven milligrams per liter.

It remains to be seen how levels of dissolved methane will be addressed in the final rule.

Next months

“I am personally pleased with the volume and breadth of the comments we have received,” said Black. “We will be putting together our synopsis of these comments and making recommendations to the Commissioners with respect to those comments and any potential changes.”

After a recommendation is submitted to the Commissioners, Reiman noted there are three avenues to take.

“One option is that we recommend no changes. The second is recommended changes, and of course, we will have to make the determination of whether the changes are substantial,” explained Reiman.

If substantial changes are made, the rule will go out again for public comment. 

“Other areas that we might highlight will be put to a policy decision,” Reiman stated. “We appreciate the comments we have received, and we look forward to digging into the comments further.”

Reiman continued, “We will make recommendations to the Commission during their November meeting.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

On Feb. 25, Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released the 2014 Integrated 305(b) and 303(d) Report, along with their Response to Comments on the second draft of the report.

Lindsay Patterson, DEQ surface water quality standards supervisor, explains, “Sections 305(b) and 303(d) are sections of the Clean Water Act. Section 305(b) of the Clean Water Act requires states to submit a report of surface water quality condition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by April 1 of even numbered years.”

The accompanying 303(d) Lists of Impaired and Threatened Waters requiring Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs)  must be  approved by EPA.

Final report

The resulting integrated report is an approximately 200-page document that describes Sections 305(b) and 303(d) of the  Clean Water Act, as well as information on monitoring programs around the state.

“The guts of the report break down the state basin by basin and watershed by watershed,” DEQ's Richard Thorp says. “It looks at what we know about various watersheds and the quality within them.”

Finally, the end of the report summarizes the causes and sources of impairments within Wyoming’s surface waters, as well as trends for TMDLs and 303(d) listings.

“There are also various tables and figures that summarize water quality assessment decisions,” Thorp adds.

In the 2014 report, there were eight new pollutant/segment combinations that were been added to the 2014 303(d) List - one for E. coli, two for sediment, one for oil and grease, three for copper and one for selenium.

Thorp says, “In addition, 48 pollutant/segment combinations were removed from the 2014 303(d) List. Of those, 39 were removed and placed in category 4A following TMDLs approved by EPA, three were removed due to Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) issues and six were removed after data showed that the pollutants causing threats or impairments were no longer elevated.”

Recent trends

Thorp notes that in the past five to six years, there has been an increase in the number of EPA-approved TMDLs in the state of Wyoming.

Patterson adds, “The increase in the number of EPA approved TMDLs has made our 303(d) List smaller.”

“The 303(d) List includes EPA category five waters, or those that are threatened or impaired and require TMDLs,” she continues. “As the state completes TMDLs, the associated waters are removed from the 303(d) List and  placed in Category 4A.”

The increase in EPA-approved TMDLs has been driven by a focus on the program and a shift in DEQ’s strategy.

“Prior to about 2008, there was a lot of focus on developing watershed plans,” Patterson says. “There is also a timeline associated with when states need to complete TMDLs. Often, EPA uses an eight to 13-year timeframe. A lot of our impaired waters were listed in 1996, so we were running against that deadline.”

Water standards

Waters are listed as threatened or impaired if they exceed criteria set out in a set of rules and standards developed by DEQ.

“Water quality standards are in Chapter One of Wyoming’s Water Quality Rules and Regulations, which are reviewed and updated approximately every three years,” Patterson says.

Different standards are adopted to protect drinking water, aquatic life other than fish, fisheries, recreation, industry, agriculture or scenic value designated uses.

“Another part of the standard is anti-degradation,” Patterson adds. “We adopt standards to support uses, and the assessment program evaluates if the uses are supported by evaluating water quality data.”

Collecting data

DEQ solicits data every two years to determine surface water quality.

“Water quality data must be submitted to the Water Quality Assessment Program no later than July 15 during odd-numbered years to be considered for inclusion in the subsequent Integrated Report,” Patterson says.

Thorp explains that much of the data utilized in the report comes from the agency’s water quality monitoring program.

“We get data from a variety of other sources, like conservation districts and the U.S. Geological Survey,” he says. “We also get data from Wyoming Game and Fish Department. There are lots of different sources for good water quality data.”

Patterson also emphasizes that DEQ uses QA/QC criteria to determine what data can be accepted and utilized.

“Besides QA/QC criteria, we have minimum requirements within our assessment methodologies to translate the water quality standards into designated use support determinations,” Patterson says.

QA/QC criteria require those submitting samples to have a pre-approved sampling analysis plan. There are nine elements set out in the plan, which include requirements to document sampling sites, permission to obtain the samples and permission to access the site.

“We review a lot of data submissions” she continues. “Some data do not end up meeting the agency’s QA/QC criteria”

An upcoming article in the Roundup will look inside Wyoming DEQ’s effort to ensure that quality data is used in their water quality programs.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper – The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Water Quality Division designated all “waters not specifically listed in Table A of the Wyoming Surface Water Classification List” for secondary contact recreation in the 2007 revision of Chapter One. 

However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) disapproved of this portion because the designation was made without conducting a use attainability analysis (UAA).

“Since the EPA rejected Wyoming’s draft of Chapter One of the Categorical Use Attainability Analysis for Recreation, all water bodies in Wyoming are protected as primary contact recreation waters by default,” said Bobbie Frank, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD).

Lindsay Patterson of DEQ explained the current UAA model and EPA’s concerns with it at the WACD Area IV meeting on Sept. 18.

In their current draft of Chapter One, the DEQ defines primary waters as those where recreational activities may result in immersion in and or ingestion of water. Due to insufficient data on water availability to support primary contact recreation in lakes, reservoirs and ponds, this UAA model does not address still bodies of water.

Secondary waters are those where contact with water is expected to be incidental or accidental and would not result in either full immersion or ingestion of water.

However, the UAA model created by the Department of Environmental Quality works to ensure the bodies of water in Wyoming are correctly classified.

Classification

The DEQ is currently working to define waters as primary due to flow, primary due to access or primary due to extension. 

According to Patterson, to qualify as primary under flow, the water source must have a mean average flow greater than six cubic feet per second. Based on mileage, this applies to 82 percent of streams in the hydrology data set in the state examined by the UAA. 

Primary classification due to access impacts water bodies near communities and recreation areas.

In populated areas, defined as census blocks of at least 55 people per square mile, a one-mile buffer is put into place. The buffer causes all water within that radius to be considered primary water because residents have easy access to it. 

“The one-mile buffer was determined because that is the distance kids are expected to walk to school, according to Department of Education policy, and we believed that was a reasonable distance, but not excessive,” Patterson said. 

All waters within national and state parks, historic sites and wildlife habitat management areas are considered primary waters. Campgrounds and Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) rest areas have a buffer zone of one-half mile of primary classification due to access.

As defined by the DEQ, streams classified as primary by extension are stream segments designated for primary contact that were extended to the nearest terminus, tributary or nearest primary segment to minimize the occurrence of short, isolated reaches. 

Frank said that this ensures that water can be managed from a practical standpoint. Primary by extension classification guarantees that all parts of the water body meet standards if the classification changes more than once.

Bacterial load

A water body is considered a primary water if there is a mean of 126 or more colonies of E. coli per 100 milliliters of water for summer recreation, which runs from May 1 through Sept. 30. The mean is determined by multiple samples taken throughout the recreation period.

E. coli levels are an indicator,” Frank explained. “The levels do not mean that the water is going to make recreationists sick if it is ingested, but it means that there is a chance.”

During the winter recreation season from Oct. 1 to April 30, E. coli populations shall not exceed a geometric mean of 630 colonies per 100 milliliters. This change in acceptable bacterial load is due to the expected reduction in recreation during the cooler months.

Single samples can be taken from the water bodies to determine bacterial loads. 

If the water body is determined to have high use, the colonies cannot exceed 230 colonies of E. coli per 100 milliliters, medium use has a limit of 298 colonies per 100 milliliters, and lightly used water bodies have a maximum for 410 colonies per 100 milliliters.

Infrequently used water bodies have the highest maximum allowance of 576 colonies per 100 milliliters. 

If water bodies exceed these maximums, they will be posted to the state’s 303(d) list, which indicates the colony load needs to be reduced, but the stream will not be listed as an impaired body.

Next steps

“Everyone who worked on this model has done a wonderful job,” Frank said. “It will take more fine tuning, but I am excited to get this model approved and on the books.”

Using the UAA model, interested parties can search water bodies, examine data collected by researchers and add or remove various layers to better understand the classification.

“We are trying to make sure that Wyoming water bodies are accurately being protected for uses, rather than presumed, and this model is very accurate,” Frank continued. “This will save time and money as the process continues.”

Frank said she does not see a mass delisting of waters happening with the implementation of the model or a significant impact on the agricultural industry other than water bodies that are improperly classified being listed correctly. 

The first draft is currently out for public comment, which closes on Sept. 30. After the comment period closes, DEQ will review the feedback, make changes if needed and send the draft back out for a formal 45-day comment period that is to be announced. 

Kelsey Tramp is the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Medicine Bow – The Wyoming Water Development Office (WWDO) began conducting watershed studies across the state of Wyoming, and most recently, a draft of the Medicine Bow Watershed Study was out for public review.

Meetings were held in Medicine Bow with the Medicine Bow Conservation District and McFadden with the Rock Creek Water Users Association on Feb. 9 to outline the results of the study, which started in June 2014, and received final comments on the draft report.

“This watershed study is important to help us analyze and evaluate the water resources within our watershed,” said Joan McGraw, Medicine Bow Conservation District manager. “There is a lot that goes into completing a watershed study.”

Inside the studies

Peter Gill, WWDO river basin planning project manager, explained, “These watershed studies have two main components.”

First, the studies look to characterize the watershed.

“We want to get an idea of where the water is, where it is being used, where the wildlife and fish are and if there are geomorphic issues or other concerns,” he continued. “We have to describe the watershed so we can get an idea of where potential enhancement can occur or if there are areas that need rehabilitation.”

McGraw noted that information was gathered by a water and natural resource consultant.

“They gather information, including stream data, geology, geomorphology, rangeland health – both vegetation and soils data, and hydrology information; analyze existing infrastructures; and conduct interviews with landowners and land managers.  They provide us with background conceptual data of our watershed and highlight areas of need, she said”

Project focus

In the second part of the watershed studies, Gill says they strive to understand water supply needs within the watersheds by meeting with waters users and landowners.

“We meet with landowners who think they may have a water project on their property we can help fund, for example,” he explained.

McGraw added, “Through the study, we can identify projects to help us improve the watershed function by creating proper management plans.  Management plans could include projects such as creating or improving water conveyance and infrastructure for irrigation, riparian health and stream channel stability or may include water development or water storage for livestock and wildlife.”

McGraw also noted that the Medicine Bow Conservation District is the local sponsor for the study, commenting, “We will assist the landowners in implementing these projects, providing technical assistance and funding sources to help get the projects completed.”

Medicine Bow

Over 20 landowners and 50 projects have been identified that would be eligible for funding through WWDO at the completion of the watershed study.

“There are different types of projects, including irrigation systems, restoring diversions or developing new irrigation,” Gill said. “We also have livestock watering projects on our list.”
He continued, “A lot of these projects develop upland water sources. We pay to put in wells and stock tanks, as well as stock water reservoirs, through our small water projects funding.”

Meetings

The Feb. 9 meetings marked the last opportunity for comments on the study draft, which was released in November.

“The Boards of both organizations met, and we’ve gone through these drafts,” Gill said. “After we get final comments, we will finalize the study.”

After the study is finalized, anyone within the watershed with a small water project becomes eligible to receive funding for the project through WWDO.

“Until a watershed study is completed, landowners cannot get funding for small water projects if they are on private land,” he added. “We conduct these watershed studies to help provide funding for private projects.”

Implementation

Gill notes that all WWDO-funded projects occur through public sponsors, with the exception of small water projects, and the watershed studies serve to understand where projects can serve a public benefit.

“By funding private, individual projects on private lands – for example putting in a stock tank or reservoir, we might keep livestock out of riparian areas,” he said as an example. “Public benefits are realized through better riparian areas, healthier streams and improved wildlife habitat.”

Looking into the next steps, McGraw comments, “Now that our study is complete we will be working on implementing small water projects.  Ultimately, we would like to do a Level II and Level III study and hopefully implement reach-scale stream projects.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..