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Lessons of a village from a water shortage

5:51 PM, Sep 20, 2013   |    comments
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By Farrah Fazal

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Columbia University researchers say the threat of climate change could create the possibility of major cities across the country and cities in the Midwest running out of water.

Researchers said our population grew by almost 100 percent since the 1950s. We are using double the amount of water.

A small village in southern Illinois experienced that dilemma 20 years ago. It's a dilemma that drove people in Pocahontas to a new way of using water. John Marcoot was one of them. His dairy farm sits on 120 acres in Greenville, Ill., an hour from St. Louis. His 65 cows are his bread and butter.

"When your cows don't have water, they don't produce milk," said Marcoot.

The years got tougher when the water in their four wells started drying up. The town of Pocahontas was running out of water too. Then came an answer in 1993.

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"There was first talk about the Bond Madison water company coming into the area," he said.

Pocahontas was growing and the village didn't have enough water to provide for everyone. A group of landowners, farmers, and homeowners decided they needed to form their own water company.

"They couldn't build a new house, they couldn't wash a new car or fill a swimming pool," said Sandy Kuhn.

Her husband was one those original group of people who thought of starting a water company. The group convinced Southwestern Electric to help them with the process. Illinois American sold them water fresh treated from the Mississippi. Tractors were digging, pipes were going in, work was moving and five years from that first meeting, water was actually flowing to someone's house and John Marcoot's dairy farm.

The not-for-profit Bond Madison Water Company was up and running. Kuhn and her husband did some of the legwork. She sent every one of the first 750 customers water bills from a small room in her house. It multiplied into files of customers in their one room office in Pocahontas. They now serve 15,000 people with 400 miles of water mains across eight villages.

"Populations are growing, there's more need for water," Kuhn said.

Fresh water is helping Marcoot raise healthier cows, and grow his business. His daughters now run a creamery they started five years ago.

"I don't know if our creamery would exist if we didn't have clean water," said Beth Marcoot Young.

The Marcoots never take clean water for granted. They know there's always the possibility they could be rationing it one day.


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