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Drought stressing irrigation systems

BERRIEN SPRINGS, Mich. – Two irrigation pumps turned themselves on and off Monday afternoon at the Andrews University Campus. Each pump is taking out about 150,000 gallons of water each day from a shallow Saint Joseph River.

Several weeks of this summer’s drought is now causing stress on irrigation systems.

The St Joseph River is down to historic lows and only a foot deep in some areas. The dry weather has also made river water a necessity. 

Michael Villwock, Grounds Manager at Andrews University pointed out one of the pumps set up along the river. The water level is less than an inch from a record low set in the 1950s.

“Five (or) six inches is what we need,” said Villwock. “To get us back to where we need to be at this point in time.”

Already Andrews University has had to lower the irrigation pumps deeper into the river several times this summer and they’ve almost reached their limit. “I hope the river has reached its low because we’re not very much farther (from not being able to pump water),” said Villwock.

The Seventh Day Adventist university has a lot to take care of. Besides the 45 acres of campus property, 900 acres of farmland is used to raise organic fruits and vegetables. Irrigation systems are used to water both.

The farmland provides a food source for the school, where nearly everyone is a vegetarian.

Millwock said the need for water is both esthetic and religious. “It’s more critical I think with the health aspect of the Seventh Day Adventist Church,” he said. “That we have those things and water is needed to grow them.”

Villwock said if the level of the St. Joseph River is too low for irrigation,  water would need to be pumped from campus wells which could dry without rain.

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