Continuing drought wears on Long Grove’s well water systems
Updated: February 21, 2013 5:44PM
LONG GROVE — Residents of Long Grove might have issues with their water wells come summer.
The ongoing drought hit a new low point earlier this month, when the Army Corps of Engineers announced that Lake Michigan is at the lowest level the agency has ever recorded. While lake levels have no effect on Long Grove’s well system, Corps officials said the root cause of the shrinkage is the same as what has been endangering wells: little snow or rain and intense summer heat.
“Any time you set a record, it’s an extreme situation,” and Keith Kompoltowicz, a chief of watershed hydrology for the Corps.
In January, the surface of Lake Michigan averaged only 576.02 feet above sea level — the lowest level since the Corps began monitoring it in 1918, and well below the January average of 578.41.
Long Grove is more than a dozen miles to the west, but Kompoltowicz noted that the strangulation is also straining older, shallow wells.
Long Grove village manager David Lothspeich said most of the village is supplied by a shallow aquifer. When builders set up the first subdivisions, they dug wells between 100 and 200 feet deep.
“Oftentimes, the original developers would hit water, and then stop,” he said.
None of them have gone dry, Lothspeich said, but some owners of older homes have damaged or burnt out pumps that overwork themselves while drawing up what remains.
Ten years ago, Village Hall began requiring all developers to dig wells at least 300-feet deep. Lothspeich said none of those homeowners are reporting well problems.
Shallow well owners can dig an entirely new system, with a permit from the Lake County Health Department, but Lothspeich said deepening an existing well is forbidden.
“Village-wide, we do have concerns with the depth those wells were drilled at originally,” said Lothspeich, suggesting homeowners consider hiring a well inspector, and see if their pump can be lowered.
Conservation will likely be a long-term concern, Kompoltowicz said.
Because the region got so little snow in the winter of 2011-12, Lake Michigan rose only four inches last summer, eight short of its average. Heat and lack of rain then caused an evaporation that was 12 inches deeper than normal. The lake has been below its monthly averages for 14 years, he added.
Long Grove Village Board member Angie Underwood, who will become Village President this spring in an uncontested election, said Village Hall has no plans for issuing water-use restrictions.
“I’m not qualified to tell people what they should be doing with their wells,” she said.
But home and business owners may need to be ready to share their wells’ supplies this summer.
“There’s really not much that can be done,” Lothspeich said. “We’re in a lengthy drought, going back a year or longer, and that’s what’s affecting everybody.”