Water, Water Everywhere in Michigan - But, is it Enough?

By Jeff Alexander, The Bridge

Picture of a person taking a water sample from a well.
Environmental consultant Chris Grobbel performs tests on the Senske’s water well in northern Michigan. Photo credit Bridge Magazine.

Bernard and Phyllis Senske encountered many challenges over the years while operating a sheep farm in Kalkaska County, but water scarcity was not among them.

That changed earlier this year. Shortly after a Canadian firm attempted to hydraulically fracture a deep shale natural gas well nearby, the water table on the Senskes’ property went down by 11 feet and discolored water flowed from their well.

“The water coming out of the faucet started getting milky after the gas company started drilling,” Bernard Senske said.

The Senskes’ situation put them among a growing number of Michigan homeowners, farmers and businesses encountering water scarcity issues.

For a variety of reasons, access to groundwater — the primary source of drinking water for 44 percent of Michigan residents and nearly all irrigated farms — is becoming a critical issue in several areas of the state.