Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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July 10, 2012

Three wells in county run dry in connection with drought

GOSHEN — Three wells have reportedly run dry in Elkhart County in connection with ongoing drought conditions across the region.

According to Jennifer Tobey, emergency management director for Elkhart County, three homes located along C.R. 7 in Nappanee have indicated that their wells ran dry over the weekend. Tobey announced the news during a meeting of the Elkhart County Board of Commissioners Monday morning.

“I activated the Red Cross and asked them to check it out,” Tobey said. “One home, the homeowners weren’t there. We’re assuming for the weekend they had already made other plans and went somewhere. Then the second home just requested 40 gallons of bottled water over the weekend. We have to check back with them today.”

Tobey indicated that the third home actually called a well driller and had them drill another well at the home.

“The second well was successful, is what I’m told,” Tobey said.

Tobey noted that she does not know how deep each of the three wells were, though she has contacted the Elkhart County Health Department to see if they can take some measurements over the next couple of days to determine how deep they actually go. Shallow wells could mean less of an issue, she said, while deep wells could mean there is a significant water shortage in the area.

“So far, those are the only reports we have of wells running dry in the county,” Tobey said. “I did talk to the Health Department this morning, and they’re going to see what kind of information they can find out regarding how deep those wells actually go.”

County Commissioner Mike Yoder indicated that he recently received a letter from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources stating that if the drought conditions continue in the area for an extended period of time, Elkhart County and other counties affected by the ongoing drought may be forced to restrict their water usage, though he added that he has some issues with how they are lumping Elkhart County in with other counties.

“Our groundwater situation here is different than pretty much every other county. Well, anyone that’s on top of that St. Joseph aquifer. We’ve got huge amounts of water,” Yoder said. “So you start throwing us in with counties that actually do have groundwater issues...we’re all being lumped together as one. And the letter clearly indicated that we could be ramped up to enforcement of restricted water usage.”

That said, Yoder told Tobey it is important to find out exactly how deep those three wells went in order to determine if such drastic measures are actually necessary for the county.

“Lets find out how deep the wells are, so we have all the data,” Yoder said. “I just don’t want a couple shallow, dry wells plus continued drought conditions triggering somebody in Indianapolis saying, ‘Well, we need to restrict water usage.’”

For her part, Tobey said that monitoring low water in the county is currently done the same way as monitoring flooding in the county — looking at the area lakes, rivers and other significant bodies of water to determine their levels.

“The only thing that I can do is go online to the National Weather Service and keep track of the depths of our rivers, lakes, etc.,” Tobey said. “It’s pretty much the same thing we do in flood conditions as well.”

According to the National Weather Service, the currently recorded depth of the Elkhart River in Goshen is 2.07 feet, putting it at the second lowest recorded depth in recent history. The lowest recorded water record is reportedly 1.25 feet in August 1964, followed by 2.10 feet in April 2003.

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