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'Its critical': Ottawa County to get $1.1 million to help address groundwater shortage

Over the past few decades, local reports of wells drying up and groundwater becoming saltier have increased in frequency.

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — Wednesday, the final state budget was unanimously approved by the legislature and will now head to the governor's desk for approval. And within that budget is $1.1 million heading to Ottawa County to help address its groundwater issues.

State Representative Brad Slagh, from Zeeland, has been advocating to prioritize this state funding for addressing the groundwater issue. 

His office says that because Ottawa County has long been the fastest-growing county in the state, a higher population will inevitably lead to higher groundwater use so prioritizing this issue is critical and the $1.1 million will certainly help move the needle.

"What we're hoping to do is figure out why the aquafer isn't keeping up," said Rep. Slaugh, "as we've seemed to have a drop in the aquafer volume as well as what might this do for the rest of the state."

Over the past few decades, local reports of wells drying up and groundwater becoming saltier have increased in frequency. 

In 2018, Michigan State University's Institute of Water Research conducted a two-part study outlining the nature of the issues and concluded that they are the result of two primary factors. The first factor identified was increased demand on groundwater due to a high rate of development, particularly in the central portion of the county, as Ottawa County has long been the fastest growing county in the state. The second was a large, continuous layer of impermeable clay sitting above the bedrock aquifer, which prevents it from recharging normally.

"As Ottawa County's population has grown over the years, the groundwater supply has dwindled," said Slagh. "Our proximity to Lake Michigan makes it hard to believe a water shortage in our area could be possible, but it is a very real concern that must be addressed before it's too late."

The county must implement a robust and comprehensive monitoring network to collect and analyze data needed to support the development of effective and sound policy aimed at ensuring current and future generations of residents have sustainable access to clean water. Because continued population growth and groundwater use are inevitable, timing is critical to design, install and deploy a real-time monitoring network. 

"This funding will relieve Ottawa County of the burdensome costs associated with design, installation and analysis of the monitoring network," Slagh said. "I'm pleased we were able to secure this investment in the future of our local water system."

"I think that the $1.1 million committed being able to do this it's going to give us a real jumpstart on trying to figure out what the problem is, why, and what can we do about it," said Slaugh.

The budget plan for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 was approved with overwhelming bipartisan support in the Legislature and now moves to the governor's desk for her expected signature. 

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