As part of an effort to protect Michigan's water resources, growers are now required to report water usage to the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) or the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), due to the recently amended Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.
The amended act states that agricultural water users that have the capacity to withdraw surface or groundwater exceeding 100,000 gal. per day, or 70 gal. per minute, must register and report annually actual water withdrawals or face penalties of $1,000 for each violation.
"It is going to be a huge cost as well as an inconvenience," said Amy Frankmann, executive director of the Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA). "The flow meters needed to measure the water are hundreds of dollars, and people have more than one well. They also have to hire a plumber and well driller to install the flow meters."
According to the MDEQ, in 2001, Michigan's thermoelectric power plants, self-supplied industries, irrigators and public water supply systems withdrew a total of 10,633 million gal. of water per day, representing a total water volume of nearly 4 trillion gal. withdrawn during the year, enough to cover the entire state with about 4 inches of water. About 90 percent of that water was returned to the Great Lakes.
According to MDEQ, Michigan's Water Use Reporting Program is an effort to "inventory, analyze and report baseline information for major water uses in Michigan." The primary goal of the program is to "inform the public of the value of the shared water endowment of the Great Lakes Basin," and to encourage efforts to sustain the water resources. It also aims to "establish an environmental baseline and continuing assessment of major water uses, including power generation, industrial, irrigation and public water supply."
Registration is based on the total pumping capacity of a facility's system, regardless of how much water is actually withdrawn during a given year. Actual reported water withdrawals might be lower. "It is very difficult to determine the total pumping capacity because most wells were installed 50, 75, 100 years ago or more," Frankmann said. "It will be extremely difficult to find the original paperwork and determine what the capacity is."
Samples of both the MDA and MDEQ reporting forms are available but should not be returned at this time. The actual reporting forms will be mailed out by December 2004. However, according to the MDA and MDEQ, the registration form should be completed and sent no later than October 1, 2004. Even though neither the MDA nor MDEQ report is due until 2005, producers are still required to report each month of use in 2004. According to Frankmann, water producers were not notified until April/May 2004, but they are still required to keep track since the beginning of the year, forcing inaccurate estimates.
Agricultural producers can choose between two reporting options. They can register with the MDA and submit an annual water withdrawal reporting form, called an "Agricultural Water Conservation Plan." The data submitted will eventually be turned over to the MDEQ, and the total reports will be by county. Producers can also register with the MDEQ and submit a water use reporting form annually and pay a $100 filing fee each year. This data will be kept by the individual farmer or grower.
In the Agricultural Water Conservation Plan, according to the MDA, information must be given about the farm/operation involved, pumps used and conservation practices implemented. For each pump, producers must provide information about the water source and water use. Nursery and greenhouse crop producers must identify each crop and acreage for water used for irrigation. They should identify the crops as field nursery crops, container nursery crops or greenhouse crops. Conservation practices include tasks associated with system management, record keeping, irrigation scheduling and application processes.
In the Agricultural Water Use Report, according to the MDEQ, information must be given about the farm/operation involved, water use and sources, irrigation crops and acreage, location and water level of wells, and monthly water withdrawals. A registered facility is no longer required to report if it connects to a public water supply system and removes all self-supplied pumping equipment.
"Growers are very concerned. There is a concern about what is going to happen with the data. The data will be on file, and that makes everyone nervous," said Frankmann. "It's another regulation they have to go through if they want to have a growing nursery production business in Michigan. It's affecting all of agriculture, not just us."