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Farmer forced to improvise

February 20, 2002

Farmer forced to improvise



By SARAH MULLIN / Staff Writer


A month ago, farmer John Schnebly never thought he would soon be on a waiting list for a new well.

Then, about three weeks ago, the well that has provided his home and farm with water since the late 1960s suddenly started to go dry.

Now he has no idea when a new well will be drilled because well drilling companies in the area are backed up with requests from others whose wells also have dried up.

"I hope we can get bumped up the list because of the livestock," Schnebly said.

A well on his second farm, which adjoins his Crown Stone Farm west of Cearfoss in northern Washington County, has been supplying water for the livestock. A neighbor provided an old 400-gallon milk tank that is mounted on a wagon so Schnebly can haul water from the second well.

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He carts two loads of water per day from the well.

Schnebly has four water troughs in the fields for the livestock. Combined, they hold about 750 gallons of water.

"It's not as easy as going and flipping up a handle like we used to do," he said. "It takes a lot of extra time and work."

He said the Crown Stone Farm well isn't completely dry. His family has been able to wash the dairy equipment off after the morning and evening milkings, and to use water for personal use.

But Thursday night the family returned from the evening milking to find they had no water.

"We had to wait an hour to take a shower," he said.

The water availability of the well is sporadic and unpredictable, Schnebly said.

It doesn't help when the dairy cows' automatic drinking cups become stuck, allowing water to flow onto the ground.

When a well goes dry, it starts to suck up dirt into the pipes. The dirt gets stuck behind the cup's lever and keeps it from shutting off, Schnebly said.

He checks the cows before going to bed around 9 p.m. and usually finds two or three drinking cups still running.

The new well will be drilled in the same fenced-off area where the current one is. It must be fenced off from the livestock to prevent contamination.

"We are hoping there is water there," Schnebly said.

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