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It's Official!
Western Resource Advocates Exposes Oil Shale Would Strain Western Water  


Our settlement is a game changer for oil shale development,” said Rob Harris, Staff Attorney for Western Resource Advocates.


When pressed in a court filing by Western Resource Advocates, Chevron USA confirms what oil companies have for years denied - oil shale development in the western United States would use enormous quantities of water thereby straining existing water resources.

In a filing with a Colorado water court, Chevron argued that to meet its goal of developing 500,000 barrels of oil per day from oil shale, the company would require up to 120,000 acre-feet of water (39,102,120,000 gallons) per year, enough water to serve more than 1 million people per year.

Thanks to Western Resource Advocates' case, Chevron's legal filing validates the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), and RAND Corporation’s independent assessments that oil shale will use large quantities of water. The oil industry and its allies in Congress had argued for close to a decade those estimates are inaccurate, though no verifiable data was put forth by industry until Chevron. The recently affirmed legal settlement is the first time the oil industry has been accountable for providing verifiable data and the new data refutes industry past claims of oil shale development’s low or ‘net zero’ water use.

Western Resource Advocates call for full disclosure by other companies of their oil shale water demands.

The Full News Release is available here

Further Background

On July 3, 2014, Western Resource Advocates and Chevron USA filed with the Colorado water court a settlement agreement that ends Western Resource Advocates’ challenge to Chevron’s oil shale water rights. The agreement stipulates that Chevron has met the legal requirements to maintain its water rights for another six years when it must return to water court. The agreement further provided that Chevron must provide to Western Resource Advocates five documents that explain how Chevron will use the water and the amounts required. (See below for copies of those documents.)

Importantly, the agreement does not voice support for Chevron's anticipated use of the water for oil shale development in Colorado. Western Resource Advocates opposes the unacceptable environmental impacts of such development efforts.

Background on Chevron’s Water rights for developing oil shale

Highlights of Chevron’s documents (links to full documents below)

In Colorado, Chevron, other oil companies, and water districts hold a staggering amount of water rights intended for oil shale development, including the right to divert over 10,000 cfs and store over a million acre-feet in reservoirs. That’s potentially enough water to meet the needs of several million people.

For More information on Oil Shale Developments impacts on Western water, including these water rights is available in Western Resource Advocates' 2009 report, Water on the Rocks.

Timeline of Legal Case Events

For questions regarding this legal settlement contact Rob Harris at or call 720-763-3713


For copies of Chevron’s documents, please click on the links below: