Eight wells supply the city of Little Falls with its water. One well is three years old; the other seven wells range in age from 41 years to 65 years and all of them are located within a one-block radius of City Hall.
During the winter months, 1 to 1.2 million gallons of water flow out of the wells into the water treatment facility each day. In the summer, that amount doubles.
Over the years, sand and minerals filtered from the aquifer build up on screens that cover at least 30 feet of the well pipe.
The wells have been rehabilitated over the years, but never regain full capacity. In addition, as the pockets in the aquifer are pumped, sand and minerals begin to fill the pocket.
“We’ve been drawing off this same pool all these years,” said Dwayne Heinen, assistant water plant superintendent. “The minerals start depositing in the formation below making it harder and harder to draw water out.”
Although Public Works Director Jerry Lochner and Heinen say there is no fear that the large aquifer created by glaciers millions of years ago that exists under City Hall will run dry any time soon, the wells are very old.
To drill a new one in the same vicinity becomes problematic, as right of way issues with proximity to the residential area and the railroad tracks arise, Heinen said.
Lochner and Heinen told the Little Falls City Council the city’s water availability and wells should be evaluated by an engineering firm.
“After all these years, some of these areas below us are starting to plug up with mineral deposits,” said Heinen. “We have many more years of pumping in this area, but we don’t want to over-pump it.”
That, he said, is when mineral deposits start to happen “And we’ll end up plugging up the whole area,” he said.
Heinen and Lochner said they want to look at the possibilities early.
“We’re not going to wait until all of a sudden we have no water,” said Heinen. “That’s the worst that could happen. We’re looking into the future, and saying, ‘Well, let’s not draw so hard on this aquifer and find another new water source.’ That way, it will open up many future years of pumping without any problems.”
If another area is found where a new well could be drilled, the older wells wouldn’t have to be pumped at full capacity, extending their life as well.
“What we’re trying to do is take some of the demand off this little pool of water we have below us,” said Heinen.
A few spots thought to have water pools beneath them include areas near the airport and another by the Little Falls Fire Hall.