Document Type


Publication Date

January 1982


Introduction: The Upper Colorado River Basin contains vast deposits of coal, oil shale, and tar sands, which could undergo extensive development should oil prices rise or an international situation restrict oil imports. Naturally, the prospect of development of these alternative fossil fuels resources has led to concern over how extraction and conversion activities will impact environmental quality. A thorough understanding of the nature and magnitude of the resulting envionemental impacts is a necessary prerequisite, if the costs and risks of such activites are to be weighed against the economic benefits. When we set out to evaluated these costs and risks, it soon became obvious that the voluminous literature in this area is difficult to access, often repetitive, and not well integrated into state-of-the-art reviews. This led us to realize the need to categorize and collate the results of such energy-related impact research in a way that would go beyond the compilation of a bibliography, or even keyworking relevant citations. The form of presentation that we eventually selected was the technical information matrix presented in this report. This matrix consists of information on the impacts of coal mining and conversion, oil shale mining and retoring, and tar sands development on four aspects of aquatic environmental quality: surface water and groundwater chemsitry, aquatic ecology, and aquifer modification. The report consists of three parts. This introductory volume contains instruction for use of the technical information matrix, a glossary, and sources of data on energy development and environmental impacts. Two additional looseleaf volumes contain the coal (II), and oil sahel and tar sands matrices (III), respectively, along with the corresponding matrix references and a bibliography of general (summary or overview) references. Each matrix volume also includes a list of symbols and abbreviations used in the matrix. Qualitatively, information on the three categories of fossil fuel development differs principally in amount, type, and geographical specificity. Coal extraction is a well-studied process in the East, where acid mine drainage and metal toxicity are well documented. In the West, surface mining of vast arid and semiarid tracts, as well as generally more alkaline mine drainage, has been less thoroughly studied. Nonetheless, commercial scale operations have been in place for a sufficiently long period, even in the West, to ahve produced a reasonably large data base. Coal conversion processes, although new, have also reached the commercial scale, and information is becoming relatively abundant. Conversely, environmental information is not generally availabel for the Scottish and Russian oil shale industries, or for the primitive industry in the Colorado Basin earlier in the century, and the present day oil shale industry in the west is insufficiently developed to have produced commerical scale case studies. Most information at present comes from pilot or semi-works facilities, and the impacts of a full-scale development over a 20-30 year project life are difficult to predict. Although Alberta, Canada, has a well developed tar sands industry, site specific information on tar sands development in the Colorado Basin is lacking. There are several areas of ommission in the coverage of sources of fossil fuel impact on aquatic environmental quality. Petroleum drilling, whose principal impacts in the Colorado Basin are related to interconnection of saline with good quality aquifers, creation of saline surface springs during exploration and illegal brine disposal practices has been omitted. Also, we have not pursued the effects of acid (e.g., Sox) base (e.g., NH3) or volatile metal (e.g., Hg) emissions to the atmosphere and their subsequent effects on downwind ecosystems when they are returned by precipitation or dry deposition. We have generally omitted the toxicological literature relating to occupational exposure (e.g., skin painting tests, etc.), as well as the impacts of water withdrawals on fish habitat through reduction of natural instream flows. In the latter cases such impacts require site specific consideration of hydrology and channel morphology. The more than 1300 citations in these matrices were gathered from a wide variety of refereed journals, symposium proceedings, government documents, abstracting services, and personal communications with researchers. The papers cited emphasize the period 1970-1981. Greatest emphasis was placed on the more recent literature, but late 1981 papers are probably underrepresented. There is also little doubt that we have failed to include some valuable material found in project reports, oral presentations, masters these, disserations, and similar sources. Certainly some citations were not optimally summarized or categorized, particularly when it was necessary to work from an abstract or summary. Hopefully, such exclusions or poor representations will not result in loss of excessive information or unduly mislead the users. We plan to update the matrix periodically, supplementing new information found with the searching techniques developed thus far and especially with information supplied by users. Updates will be in the form of looseleaf pages to be added to or substituted in Volumes I and II, and will be published as frequently as deemed necessary to cover developments in the subject areas. We would very much appreciate receiving copies (or summaries) of pertinent reports from the users of this matrix, together with corrections or improvements in the content or categorization of material presently in the matrix. There should be sent to: F.J. Post (coal) or Jay Messer (oil shale and tar sands) Utah Water Research Laboratory UMC 82 Utah State University Logan, UT 84322 They will be gratefully included in the next update.