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Well-Drilling Companies Working Overtime During Minnesota's Drought

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota's drought is having various impacts on businesses across the state.

Many farmers have been relying on irrigation since early June to get their crops through the dry growing season.

To say David Traut's well-drilling rigs are working overtime this summer would be an understatement. His business, Traut Companies out of Waite Park, has been all over the state trying to bring water to communities and crops.

"Sometimes we're waiting up to six weeks for parts that used to take three or four days. So now you have a customer with a problem, but you can't really help them out too efficiently when you have to wait six weeks and go back and reschedule," Traut said.

The parts backlog is related to a shortage of labor -- a problem Traut's company is familiar with. Many of his clients are farmers whose irrigation systems have also been working overtime since early June. Wear and tear is taking a toll.

Well Drilling Machine
(credit: CBS)

"When that happens ... people [are] pushing equipment many more hours per day. So if there is a weakness or something that should have been serviced and didn't get serviced, it will come out," he said.

In other cases it's not equipment that's broken down, it's the ponds that have dried up. Specifically, ponds used to water cattle. Well-drilling companies are busy creating new ponds for livestock. The farmers they can't get to have to find their own water.

"Most of the ponds are totally dry or nearly dry, so some are hauling water, or piping water a long ways from the nearest residents just to get a stock trough with water in it," Traut said.

And with many parts of the state down several inches of rain or more, it's going to be quite some time before business dries up.

"Every available person is out working every available hour, and yet try not to burn your employees out because they obviously have a home life as well," he said.

Traut says he's seeing cases where even heavier soil needs irrigation this year.

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