• Coalbed natural gas (CBNG) activities (e.g., development and water use) in the Powder River Basin (PRB) of Wyoming and Montana have impacted PRB ecosystems through alterations in natural soil properties and nutrient cycles, changes in vegetation communities, disruption in native wildlife habitats, as well as affecting other community and environmental changes. One of the primary concerns associated with CBNG activities is the utilization of the coproduced saline-sodic waters that, when introduced into streams and/or applied to soils, can cause dispersion of aggregates and impact plant communities. Sodium hazards to soil physical properties must be determined from not only salinity/sodicity relationships but other environmental changes. Although Ayers and Wescot (1985) outlined guidelines for evaluating sodium risks to soil infiltration, the risk associated with sodic waters is also highly dependent on soil/sediment texture, structure, clay content, mineralogy, organic matter content, as well as plant communities. In addition, rainfall or irrigation with non-saline water on soils previously irrigated with saline-sodic water can increase sodium hazards by lowering the soil electrical conductivity (EC) and reducing soil permeability. Unfortunately, regulatory permits have not always considered the importance of these factors in maintaining site integrity and environmental quality. Studies have shown that CBNG waters have negatively affected soil physical, chemical and biological properties. Vegetation responses are related to site management and water quality, and some sites have shown increased plant biomass productivity at the expense of vegetation diversity. Soil and water amendments may reduce the impact of saline-sodic waters; however, monitoring site responses to treatments is essential to verifying ecosystem integrity and productivity. Planning is essential for developing proper land-use activities before, during, and following site disturbance associated with CBNG activities. Baseline and assessment studies should consider how the proposed land use will meet the needs and goals of land owners, while considering potential impacts and revegetation issues. Landscape design, topsoil characteristics, methods for topsoil preservation, revegetation options, and availability of water resources are just some of the factors that should be considered in the planning process. Land-use planning efforts should focus on creating a sustainable environment by determining the areas that are best suited to crop production, grazing, water disposal, or, whenever possible, water utilization. When considering CBNG activities, planning should identify fundamental site, soil and water characteristics that play an integrated role in environmental quality and sustainability. 2010 by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

author list (cited authors)

  • Vance, G. F., & Ganjegunte, G. K.

complete list of authors

  • Vance, George F||Ganjegunte, Girisha K

Book Title


publication date

  • January 1, 2010 11:11 AM