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Michigan’s water shortages despite surrounding surface water

March 10, 2022

Inland communities over rely on groundwater due to uneven access to surface water from the Great Lakes.

Michigan does not face depleted reservoirs and aquifers like western states. However, in the Great Lake State, nearly half (45%) of drinking water source is from underground water supplies despite all the surrounding surface water. Michigan has the most household wells in the U.S. In comparison, on average 38% of U.S. residents depend on groundwater for as a source of drinking water.

While the Great Lakes region is thought to have sufficient groundwater comparable to Lake Huron – an average volume of 850 cubic miles (3,550 km) reports the EPA – the freshwater resources are not equally accessible or evenly distributed.

The Great Lakes supply nearly 300 Michigan water systems, mostly in coastal areas, not inland.

Michigan Geological Survey explained to the Associated Press that the melting of glaciers has left uneven subsurface rock formations, some of which have more water storage capacity than others. When rain falls on sandy and gravelly soil, the surface water can recharge groundwater basins. In contrast, clay soil is not permeable; aquifers are not replenished as pumping of water for irrigation, industry and residential use occurs.

The extent of Michigan’s groundwater vulnerability is unknown due to limited mapping of aquifers.

Furthermore, as new residential subdivisions as well as farms and fields along the Grand River pump more groundwater, sediment and compromised water quality may surface as wells dry.

Approval and construction of pipelines from the Great Lakes to inland communities requires rigorous environmental standards and investment. So, water conservation is being strongly advocated.