Contact(s): Bruce Rheineck, groundwater section chief, 608-266-2104
MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin Groundwater Coordinating Council shared key recommendations for protecting and preserving groundwater resources with the Wisconsin legislature in its August 2019 annual report. Nearly three-quarters of Wisconsin residents rely on groundwater as the primary source for their drinking water.
Recognizing the importance of Wisconsin's water resources to public health and the economy, Gov. Tony Evers declared 2019 the Year of Clean Drinking Water and State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos formed a task force to hold hearings focused on water quality throughout Wisconsin. This report helps to inform both efforts about steps that should be taken to protect these vital resources.
"Too many people in Wisconsin are concerned about the safety of their drinking water, our recommendations are intended to change that," said Bruce Rheineck, groundwater section chief for the Department of Natural Resources.
Three of the key recommendations found in the report address some of the most prevalent issues in Wisconsin water quality, including:
Areas of the state with a greater density of agriculture generally have a higher frequency of nitrate and pesticide detection, especially in areas of the state with vulnerable geology and soils. The report recommends developing and evaluating a strategy to promote practices that lead to efficient use of nitrogen and careful or reduced use of pesticides to protect drinking water sources.
Viruses and other microbial pathogens have been found in municipal and domestic wells, challenging previous assumptions about their persistence and transport. Identifying where and when pathogens pose threats to human health is fundamental to improving water quality. The council recommends working with partners to increase awareness of waste disposal choices, their risks and costs.
While many emerging challenges threaten the health of Wisconsin's groundwater resources, some rise to the top. The report also highlights the water quality challenges posed by PFAS, livestock industry expansion, metallic mining and climate change. Partner agencies are joining together to formulate strategies to address these challenges and acting on recommendations established in the report.
The 2019 report also notes in the steps taken by participating Council agencies to protect groundwater from contamination and helps the public better understand the sources and distribution of naturally occurring contaminants in groundwater. It also highlights the need for the continued support of applied groundwater research into the factors that affect groundwater supplies and identify the next steps to protect and preserve our valuable groundwater resources.
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 ten 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.