California drought pits farmers vs. cities. But neither is the biggest water victim.
“We have to do more to protect the water we have,” said Gary Kachanovitch, a member of the City Council in the small city of Houghton Lake, Mich. About three dozen of the city’s 40,000 residents live in a small hamlet of 1,000 souls, about 45 minutes west of Detroit, one of seven communities in Michigan where water is scarce.
And the drought is getting worse, not better.
The region is experiencing drier and hotter weather, especially in the spring and early summer. But residents are also increasingly relying on bottled water because the wells they depend on for drinking water are drying up.
Houghton Lake is in a state of emergency, with some homeowners without water or sewer. Officials have had to turn off water to some residents, which has forced them to use bottled water, Kachanovitch said.
The drought’s impact on the region is already evident: It has cost local governments $13 million in municipal water bills, he said.
And it’s costing farmers thousands of dollars in water to irrigate crops during a period when the state is not required to provide emergency flood protection to farmers, a federal agency said last week.
The drought is a “frightening disaster,” said Jeff Anderson, who farms about 25 acres of wheat and corn in the city of Sterling, Mich. The drought is affecting everything, and “I don’t know what we can do to stop it.”
“It’s the worst drought I’ve experienced in my 58 years in Michigan,” said Bob Cresnahan, who farms 3,300 acres in the small Midwestern city of Holland. Cresnahan can’t afford to irrigate or pump water to his fields, but he said he won’t stop watering.
“It is so dire. And there’s nothing we can do,” Cresnahan said. “We can’t change the weather,