By LAUREN GIBBONS
Capital News Service
LANSING — Agricultural industries and well owners throughout Michigan both rely on the groundwater flowing deep beneath the earth. In some cases, reservoir depletion can render smaller wells useless — unsurprisingly, disputes result.
The problem is not new, legislators and representatives of rural industries say, but as agriculture expands, conflicts are expected to become more prevalent. Both sides say solutions can come from some kind of state-sponsored mediation program, but time is running out to reinstate such a program in place this year. Budget constraints and a belief that existing legal solutions to the disputes are sufficient nixed an aquifer protection program that was in place from 2003 to 2009, said Maggie Datema, director of the office of legislative affairs at the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The program, put in place to assist property owners who believed their wells and groundwater levels were harmed by neighboring water use, ran through DEQ and resolved most cases brought before a civil suit was deemed necessary, Datema said.