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Ottawa County running out of groundwater, official says

Michigan has been plagued by problems with PFAS and lead in drinking water, but now one county is at risk of completely going dry.

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — It's a scary thought. Apparently, running out of drinking water is a very real possibility for one of West Michigan's largest counties.

Ottawa County Director of Planning and Performance Improvement Paul Sachs spoke at Muskegon Community College on Thursday, Nov. 7. He says since the 1970s, the static water level in the county's aquifer system has gone down 40 feet.

"This is a county-wide issue regardless of whether you get your water from a public water supply or you get your water from a well," he said. "We need to start thinking about water differently, not only in Ottawa County but in Michigan as a whole."

The very fact that Michigan is so closely associated with water has actually been one of the obstacles in informing people about this issue.

RELATED: Senate approves $9 million increase for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

"We're gradually getting more people to be aware of what the situation is, but it's a big hurdle to overcome," Sachs said. 

"A big part of it is we see so much water abundant all around us - the Great Lakes and all this excess surface water and now we have all of this snow. So for us to explain to people that we're running out of groundwater, it's hard for them to connect the dots."

Sachs says the single most important thing a homeowner can do to reverse this trend is to reconsider how you water your lawn.

"Recycle water. Use rain barrels. Use other opportunities to water your lawn as opposed to using fresh drinking water. If you're on a public water supply you save money, right? If you're on well water, you're saving your drinking water and not wasting it on your lawns which isn't going back into that system."

Ottawa County's website has more conservation strategies as well as a map of the areas hardest hit by this problem.


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