Groundwater Coordinating Council report reflects importance of state's groundwater resources

Discussion in 'Outdoor News' started by Wisconsin DNR News, Aug 31, 2016.

  1. By Central Office August 31, 2016

    Contact(s): Steve Ales, acting director for DNR's Bureau of Drinking Water and Groundwater, 608-267-7545, [email protected]; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084, [email protected]

    Wisconsin's groundwater resources play a critical role in human health and the economy and the 2016 annual report of the Groundwater Coordinating Council summarizes the state of these important resources.

    Nearly three-quarters of Wisconsin residents rely on groundwater as the primary source for their drinking water and the report aims to further public understanding of groundwater quality and quantity as well as the need for ongoing research into the factors that affect groundwater supplies. This year's report encourages broader testing of private wells and notes areas of the state where progress is being made to reduce nitrate levels.

    The Groundwater Coordinating Council was formed in 1984 to help state agencies coordinate activities and exchange information on groundwater. Today, the council and its subcommittees regularly bring together staff from more than 10 different agencies, institutions and organizations to communicate and work together on a variety of research, monitoring, data management, education and planning issues. These activities increase coordination across agency lines to avoid duplication, create efficiencies and benefit Wisconsin's taxpayers.

    Patrick Stevens, administrator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' environmental management division and chairman of the Groundwater Coordinating Council, said the group's work reflects the need for coordination in managing the resource in Wisconsin. In addition to supplying homes and supporting businesses, Wisconsin's groundwater also provides critical habitat through spring-fed rivers, lakes and streams.

    "Wisconsin's groundwater helps anchor the state's economy and is fundamental to a healthy environment," Stevens said. "The Groundwater Coordinating Council's report helps identify next steps to protect and preserve our valuable groundwater resources."

    Steve Ales, acting director for DNR's bureau of drinking water and groundwater said the 2016 report includes a finding that 16 counties including Dane, La Crosse and Wood show decreasing nitrate concentrations. Nitrate is Wisconsin's most widespread groundwater contaminant and it correlates with the presence of other contaminants, so the decrease in these counties represents a positive trend. Ales said ongoing monitoring will be needed to help show how pervasive the trend is and whether beneficial agriculture practices in these counties may be applied in other areas.

    The report also highlights the need for additional testing of private wells. Unlike public water systems, protection and maintenance of private wells is largely the responsibility of homeowners. In some counties, such as Dane, Portage and Kewaunee, more than 10 percent of private wells, on average, are tested for coliform bacteria each year. However, the state average of private wells tested annually for total coliform bacteria is only about 6 percent.

    It is recommended that private well owners test their water at least once a year for coliform and E. coli bacteria, important indicators of health risk. A home well also should be tested for nitrate at least once, and on a regular basis if there is agricultural activity in the area.

    For more information, visit DNR.wi.govand search "Groundwater Coordinating Council."

    Last Revised: Wednesday, August 31, 2016