Dry weather causing problems for some shallow wells

Recent rains are helping recharge many private water wells that languished because of near-drought-l

Recent rains are helping recharge many private water wells that languished because of near-drought-like conditions in the Capital Region, but more is needed to solve the problem, according to a professional geologist and well driller.

“It is not getting worse right now. We have had a lot of belly washers and that has been enough to stabilize the situation,” said Larry LaChance, general manager with Adirondack Pump & Well Services. LaChance is a master groundwater contractor and certified professional geologist.

A horseshoe-shaped region comprising about half of New York, with prongs stretching west along the southern tier and north to the Canadian border, is abnormally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Abnormally dry is the second level of drought intensity.

Approximately 45 percent of this area is abnormally dry, compared to 31 percent a year ago, and to 55 percent a week ago. Three months ago, 28 percent of the area was abnormally dry, while 3 percent was abnormally dry at the start of the water year Sept. 27, 2011, according to the monitor.

LaChance said the drought conditions took a toll on shallow aquifers, while deep aquifers have remained unaffected.

“It is an unstable situation and we are not out of woods yet, but it is getting a whole lot better,” LaChance said. “Our panic calls have slowed down enough that you notice it.”

LaChance said shallow wells recover quicker if located in sandy soil, such as near Saratoga Springs, than those on clay soils, such as near Rotterdam.

Town of Rotterdam officials said they have not received any calls from residents complaining about spotty water problems from private wells.

LaChance said a “good, soaking rain” would probably end many spotty well problems, and aid with aquifer recovery over the winter months. “The long-term forecast shows we will have a lot of snow and it will be cold. It is bad news for people who do not want to shovel snow, but that is how we recharge the aquifer,” he said.

Hugh Johnson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, said the Capital Region remains below normal in terms of precipitation, despite Monday night’s rain. “We got some pretty good rain, a half-inch to 1 inch and more in most areas, but we are about 3 inches below normal for the year. That is not bad and not that terribly dry,” he said.

The total precipitation for the year is 22.24 inches against the 30-year normal of 25.37 inches. Last year at this time, the area had recorded 33.21 inches, and that was before tropical storms Irene and Lee hit the area.

This year will not be the driest on record, Johnson said. The driest year was 1964 with 21.55 inches for the entire year, he said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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