Ground water levels dropping in Ottawa County

9:31 PM, Jan 10, 2013   |    comments
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COOPERSVILLE, Mich. (WZZM) - An emerging problem with the lack of ground water in Ottawa County is impacting farmers and others in rural areas. A recent study by Michigan State University found that water levels are dropping and salt levels are on the rise.

After irrigating his soy bean crop last year, farmer Merle Langeland realized there was a problem.

"I estimate 20% or 30% percent was lost," says Langeland.

Langeland says the soy beans were damaged by the irrigation system.

"The soy beans that were getting water we're actually looking worse," says Langeland.

Langeland tested the water and found higher levels of salt in it. His situation mirrors the findings of an MSU study of Ottawa County.

"We have doubling of the amount of wells that have salinity contents higher than safe drinking water levels," says Keith Van Beek, Assistant Ottawa County Administrator.

County leaders suspect its caused by a drop in ground water levels.

"The water levels have gone down, and generally MSU indicates to us that we're drawing it at unsustainable rates," says Van Beek.

A map from the MSU study shows a growing number of private wells with high salt content.

"It's centrally located in the county, but those areas seem to be expanding very quickly," says Van Beek.

With last year's dry spell, farmers are left to choose the lesser of two evils.

"You've got this investment (water irrigation system) that you're not going to be able to use, and then you're back to being at the mercy of the weather," says Langeland.

If the irrigation system can't be used, Langeland says his yield for next year could be significantly lower.

County leaders want feedback from anyone in the community that is concerned about high salt content in their private well. The county plans on conducting another study on the ground water levels in the summer.

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