Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

April 6, 2007

How Michigan intends to control withdrawals

Upper Michigan’s largest daily newspaper, The Mining Journal, provides an update on efforts to devising a method to help determine safe water withdrawal rates:

How much is too much?

The Groundwater Conservation Advisory Council (GWCAC) is developing computer models that would measure stream flow rates and other hydrological characteristics near places where big users want to pump.

‘‘It should be kind of an education tool, so a user can put a water withdrawal where it would have the least impact on natural resources and neighbors,’’ said James Clift of the Michigan Environmental Council, a member of the panel.

Michigan in 2006 became the last Great Lakes state to enact a law governing large water withdrawals. But officials say its groundwater council is setting the pace for determining when a withdrawal would have an ‘‘adverse environmental impact.’’

The computer models being developed … would provide early warning that a site might need closer inspection to determine whether it’s suitabile for large pumping operations.

The models would estimate the effect on stream flow, water volume, groundwater connections and other factors, said David Hamilton, water management chief in the state Department of Environmental Quality.

The system won’t help restore waterways that are already degraded. ‘‘It’s aimed at minimizing change from here forward,’’ Seelbach said.

The council is scheduled to report to the Legislature by July.

Michigan industries, municipalities, farms and other businesses pumped about 730 million gallons of groundwater daily in 2000 (266 billion gallons annually). That amount represented about 2.6% of an estimated 27 billion gallons of water that flows each day into underground aquifers.

Related links: MSU’s Groundwater Mapping Project

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