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Drought leaves some rural residents tapped out

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WORTHINGTON -- The city of Worthington may have been able to tap added water supply from the Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water system, but more than half a dozen rural residents in Nobles County are still on a waiting list to get rural water.

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LPRW CEO Dennis Healy said Friday that they've had an usually high number of requests from rural residents in recent months to tap into the line, which brings water from Osceola Rural Water into Nobles County.

"There have been a few cases where the wells have basically quit pumping any water," said Healy, adding that in most instances, the water coming from private wells just isn't enough to meet the needs of the customer.

"The situation is getting worse rather than better," he said. "They're contacting us before they're totally out of water."

Rural Bigelow dairy farmer Steve Dykstra had to get an emergency hook-up into LPRW's system a year ago already, and has relied on the water to supplement three existing wells on the farm.

"I've been using it non-stop for a year now," he said.

With two shallower wells on his property, Dykstra looked into rural water more than a decade ago, but ultimately decided to dig a new well. The well, at 780 feet deep, was to be his backup water source.

The water quality was so poor, however, that it rusted the pump. When it finally was in operation, the dairy cows didn't really like the water.

"My cows have suffered in production since using that (deep) well," Dykstra said, adding that since hooking into the LPRW line, his dairy barn has been utilizing the water non-stop.

Harlan Hanson, owner of Hanson's Well Drilling in Heron Lake, has been in the well business for 52 years. At age 72, he said he can't recall a time when water shortages have been more prevalent than they are today.

"They're showing up here, there and everywhere," Hanson said. "Most of them are shallow wells that are bothering (homeowners). I haven't run into any deep wells that are bothering."

Hanson recently serviced two shallower wells near Worthington, resulting in one property owner hooking into rural water and the other having the water pump lowered to the bottom of the 145-foot well.

"Water was 20 feet from the top and it went down to 90 feet," Hanson said of the well level.

So far, he hasn't had any requests from people wanting to drill a deeper well.

"I think they're limping along now and praying for rain," Hanson said.

Both Hanson and Healy agree that people need to start thinking about water conservation.

"There have been a couple of people who have had to go into the laundromat to wash clothes," Hanson said. "Those washing machines eat up a lot of water."

"If this drought lasts into next year, it's going to put a real strain on the system," Healy said. "We've purchased a limited capacity (from Iowa) so that's all the water we have a right to. The Osceola system has indicated to us that right now they can provide a little more water if we need it, but there's no guarantee above the amount we'll purchase."

Meanwhile, LPRW continues to complete hook-ups, and will do so as long as they can.

"The problem this time of year is the weather," he said. "The cost gets kind of expensive when the frost hits."

Typically, LPRW can complete a hook-up in a day, but then the line has to be flushed out and a bacterial test needs to be completed.

"Results can take two to three days," he said. "Once we get a good test back, then we can turn on the water."

While the LPRW system provides some relief for people in need of water, Healy has said on several occasions that the Lewis & Clark water pipeline can't get here soon enough.

"That would help everybody a lot if we can get that," he said. "It's going to be interesting to see what happens in the next few months with the feds."

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

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Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer joined the Daily Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington and graduate of Worthington High School, then-Worthington Community College and South Dakota State University, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. At the Daily Globe, Julie covers the agricultural beat, as well as Nobles County government, watersheds, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework (cross-stitch and hardanger embroidery), reading, travel, fishing and spending time with family. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at www.farmbleat.areavoices.com.
(507) 376-7330
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