Conservation Needed in Five Michigan Communities

Feb. 12, 2019

Groundwater is drying up in five communities in Ottawa County, Mich

In Ottawa County, Mich., groundwater is drying up in five communities and state agencies are getting the word out while preparing for the worst.

According to Fox 17, homes and businesses have to get their water in one of two ways. The urban areas get their water from municipal lines that pump water from Lake Michigan, while rural areas are served by private wells that pump form groundwater aquifers. Around 30% of residents using groundwater from the Marshall groundwater formation have been watching their water run dry for the last 10 years.

Ottawa County's Director of Planning and Performance Improvement, Paul Sachs, said it is important to know this has nothing to do with Nestle's contract pulling water from aquifers more than 100 miles North of the problem area.

"We have the worst geology under our feet in Ottawa County," Sachs said to Fox 17.

Sachs has been studying the Marshall formation with researchers at Michigan State University for the past seven years. According to Fox 17, they are just now getting the word out in an effort to proactively plan and ensure people have future access to groundwater.

"We have learned that our water levels in that deep bedrock formation are depleting faster than that system can be recharged," Sachs said to Fox 17. "The issue lies in the clay layers that limit fresh water from soaking down into the earth and recharging aquifers."

Most people using a well in Allendale, Zeeland, Blendon, Robinson, and Olive townships are now facing two big problem. According to Fox 17, as water levels continue to drop in the system, not only could some wells go dry if communities do not go deeper, but if they do start to go deeper that chloride in the water could become richer, thicker, and start being pumped up.

This means people drinking from wells in Ottawa County could already be drinking salty water, which corrodes plumbing, damages crops, and potentially causes adverse health effects, according to Fox 17. Researchers say the Marshall aquifer has already dropped an historic 40 ft since the study began in 2012 and could drop another 20 ft by 2035.