The Water–Energy Nexus in the American West
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The Water–Energy Nexus in the American West

Edited by Douglas S. Kenney and Robert Wilkinson

The nexus between water and energy raises a set of public policy questions that go far beyond water and energy. Economic vitality and management of scarce and precious resources are at stake. This book contributes to the body of knowledge and understanding regarding water, energy, and the links between the two in the American West and beyond.
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Chapter 13: Adaptive Management as a Tool for Negotiating the Water–Energy Nexus

Melinda Harm Benson


Melinda Harm Benson1 13.1. INTRODUCTION Adaptive management (AM) is an innovative approach that is gaining influence with natural resource managers because it integrates scientific investigations into management actions involving natural systems. This is a particularly valuable strategy in situations where the potential ecological impact of a management activity is largely unknown. Uncertainty is common in many situations involving the development of energy resources on public lands. A prominent example is coalbed methane (CBM) development in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin (the Basin) (discussed in Chapter 5 by MacDonnell and Guerra). In order to extract methane gas from underground coal seams, millions of gallons of water are discharged onto the surface on a daily basis. The long-term impact of these discharges on water supply, vegetation and wildlife is largely unknown and has been the subject of great controversy in the Basin. This chapter examines the potential for AM to balance the need for energy development with overarching environmental concerns, using CBM development in the Basin as an example. The US Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is the primary mineral manager in the Basin. In March 2007, all bureaus within the Department were ordered to utilize AM whenever possible. After a brief definition of AM and an examination of the Department’s technical guidance regarding when AM should be used, this chapter examines CBM development in the Basin to see whether AM should be employed. It describes what the Department is currently doing to manage CBM resources in the Basin, and...

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