Wells drying up because of drought

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Since Saturday, there's been no water coming through Stanley Moore's taps.

"I guess we'll just have to start carrying it in," Moore said Monday, not knowing when the well on his property will again be able to provide water to the house he shares with his son on County Road 244 north of Delta.

Moore has already had Glen Griffin, owner and operator of Griffin Well and Pump Service, out to the house to drill his 25-foot well deeper. Water flowed through the pipes for a few hours after, but then stopped.

Griffin has had a busy few weeks in Cape Girardeau and Scott counties as drought has lowered the water table, limiting many rural residents' access to a consistent supply.

"In a normal year, we don't have a problem," Griffin said, while preparing early Monday afternoon to drill a third residential well deeper.

A groundwater level observation well near Delta operated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources measured the depth to groundwater level from the surface at past 28 feet Monday. On June 25 the depth from surface to water was around 23.5 feet. The water table is lowering, causing some wells in the area to dry up as a severe drought continues.

Griffin said most calls he has responded to result in drilling 25- to 30-feet deep wells deeper, up to 40 to 45 feet, so water is again accessible. His service can cost around $1,000 per visit, he said. With many farmers irrigating in efforts to keep their crops alive, he said he expects the water level will draw down even more.

The National Weather Service's Cape Girardeau observation station received 1.37 inches of rain in June. The average for the month is 2.55 inches, and most of the area has experienced around a foot less of rain so far in 2012 than in average years. On June 23, drought in Southeast Missouri was upgraded on the U.S. Drought Monitor map from "severe" to "extreme." Another drought map will be released Thursday.

Moore isn't alone with the problem of no water. Others, however, may be taking illegal actions to deal with the situation.

Over the weekend, Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle charged Justin T. Borneman, 25, who is also lives on County Road 244, with tampering and property damage, both misdemeanors, after he allegedly cut 200 feet of irrigation pipe and turned off irrigation systems at two neighboring farms.

Borneman admitted to a Cape Girardeau County sheriff's deputy when interviewed later at his home that he cut the pipe with a box cutter and turned off the system's motors and claimed he did it because the farmers in the area are lowering the water table and he is unable to have water in his home, according to the probable cause statement.

Borneman appeared on the charges before Judge Gary A. Kamp on Monday and the case was continued to Aug. 6 to allow Borneman to seek legal counsel.

Lt. David James, spokesman for the sheriff's department, said he is not aware of similar incidents elsewhere in the county, but said he can see the potential for problems brewing if the drought continues.

Around 500,000 Missouri residents, most of whom are rural, rely on groundwater for their water supply, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. In Southeast Missouri, there is normally a large quantity of shallow groundwater available to be pumped by wells.

Cape Girardeau County Emergency Management director Richard Knaup said he is not surprised that shallow well pumps are having trouble getting water to homes in some areas but does not think wells that supply some cities and towns in the county will have problems supplying water because the wells are drilled deeper and hold more water.

In April, Cape Girardeau switched over to using only well water to supply the city, although it seems much less likely, according to Kevin Priester, water systems manager for Alliance Water Resources, the company operating the city's water system, that Cape Girardeau will run out of water.

"The shallow wells are much more dependent on surface recharge," Priester said, whereas the city draws its water from much larger wells that aren't as dependent on rainfall amounts.

The city did, however, break an all-time use record Sunday by using more than 9.5 million gallons of water.

Griffin is looking at good business in the well-drilling industry to keep up as days with little to no rain are forecast to continue, but other industries are also getting many requests for service and maintenance due to high temperatures.

"Our service guys have been working up into the night hours, even on Saturdays and Sundays," said Deena Masters, office manager for Flori Heating and Cooling in Cape Girardeau.

Masters said the prolonged heat wave is putting extra stress on residential air conditioners and the company is receiving many calls from businesses as well. Businesses often turn off cooling systems during closed weekend hours, and once turned back on at the start of the week tend to break down more easily if fighting extreme and rising temperatures during the day.

Monday's National Weather Service-confirmed high of 101 degrees in Cape Girardeau matched the record setting-high from 1970, according to unofficial local records. The temperature also reached 101 degrees in Paducah, Ky., breaking the daily record, according to the National Weather Service.

An excessive heat warning for the area that was set to expire Monday has now also been extended until 7 p.m. Friday. Small chances for precipitation are possible area-wide today, and temperatures will hover at or just below the 100 degree mark for the next several days, according to the National Weather Service.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

Delta, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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