Most natural gas wells completed in the Fruitland Formation in the San Juan Basin produce large volumes of water that contain elevated levels of total dissolved solids (TDS), sodium, and chloride. The chloride and sodium content of this water can elevate soluble salt and exchangeable sodium levels in soil. Soil most severely impacted by discharge of this produced water is saline-sodic. It will not sustain plant life until action is taken to reduce the levels of soluble salt and exchangeable sodium in the soil.

Reclamation of impacted soil should take place promptly and consist of applying gypsum amendments and native grass mulch or aged manure followed immediately by leaching. The leach water should be impounded on the spill site if the topography is suitable. In New Mexico, seeding of salt-tolerant grasses and shrubs should take place between July 1 and September 15. Revegetation strategies for Colorado are more complex because topography and rainfall range dramatically.

Reclamation will proceed slowly and beneficial results will not be observed for at least 6 months to 1 year. Complete soil reclamation and restoration of vegetation may not be accomplished for 3 to 5 years after initial application of amendments.

You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.