Drought conditions and growing residential
and industrial demand for water are reducing
water tables in parts of Missouri and
pointing to the need for water resource
conservation, say University of Missouri
The lack of rain and dry subsoil moisture
have reduced the refilling of underground
aquifers. Water quality specialists point to
data from 75 Missouri Department of Natural
Resources monitoring wells across the state
that indicate many regions have lower
groundwater levels than they did 10 years
"You need time for the water to perk down
into the water table to recharge it," said
John Tharp, an Extension water quality
specialist. "If you are drawing it down
quicker than it can be recharged, that
equates to a water shortage in the
groundwater. Rivers and ponds are down,
The problem might be most acute in
southwest Missouri. Bob Schultheis, natural
resource engineering specialist, said
streams in Webster and Christian counties
are drying up that never have been dry
"Mostly it’s the lack of rainfall, as
we’ve probably had 15 to 20 inches less rain
here annually for the last two years than we
normally get," Schultheis said. "We are
looking at a lot more people moving into
those counties, and every one of them is
drilling a well to service their house. They
are drawing down the water table that
normally recharges the streams."
Schultheis said that in the past, people
in southwest Missouri would drill 300 feet
deep to hit an adequate water supply. Now,
drillers have to go 500 to 600 feet before
they find the same amount of water.
Tom Kruzen, a volunteer water quality
sentinel for the Ozark Chapter of the Sierra
Club, blamed unwise development that
increased water runoff, preventing water
from seeping down into aquifers.
"Of course we’ve got more people moving
here, and we just need to be more
conservative regarding ground water," Kruzen
said. "Too much is used for industrial
purposes without being recycled.
"What happens when you pave over the
world is that you increase the runoff, and
the water is not going to be around during
drought conditions when you need it."
Don Day, natural resource engineer in the
Boone County Extension office, works in 14
counties in central Missouri. He said the
area is behind in rainfall, and subsoil
moisture is low.
"Right now we are OK on water on the
surface because we’ve had a little rain, but
we are still short," Day said. He said that
although water was needed to recharge ponds
and reservoirs, he had no data regarding the
area’s groundwater situation.
According to DNR, Missouri drills more
than 6,500 new wells each year. Although
many are for private homes, businesses and
industry are major water users. Ethanol
plants might use more than a million gallons
of water a day.
Schultheis said a proposed ethanol plant
for Webster County has raised concerns of
residents who have shallow wells. He said
they might have to dig deeper for water once
the ethanol plant is in operation.
He also said that although discussions
have begun about conserving water in
Springfield, "by and large it hasn’t hit the
radar of most people yet."
"Springfield pumps water from Stockton
Lake to supply its reservoirs," Schultheis
said. "Had they not been pumping 20 million
to 30 million gallons a day from Stockton
Lake, they would have been in critically low
water supply levels."
Reach Terry Ganey at (573) 815-1708