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January 22, 2014

MADISON - To help find ways to sustainably manage groundwater and surface waters in Wisconsin's Central Sands region in the future, the state is launching an effort to collect, analyze and report the latest scientific, natural resources and socio-economic information relating to groundwater and surface waters in the eight-county area, state water officials say.

The strategic analysis aims to characterize the environmental effects of water uses and to consider alternative courses of action to protect groundwater and surface water resources, says Dan Helsel, who leads water programs in central and western Wisconsin for the Department of Natural Resources.

"We all want to sustain the viable use of our groundwater that supports local farms, industries and municipalities and at the same time protects our lakes and streams. We think this analysis will provide important information and understanding to help Wisconsin do that."

Information about the strategic analysis and the topics planned to be covered can be found on the DNR website. Helsel invites people to complete an online questionnaire to provide feedback on whether there are more topics that should be covered.

"We have an outline of the kinds of information we think should be included, but we want to hear from Wisconsin citizens on whether we're missing any major topic areas," Helsel says.

Written comments also may be provided and addressed to Dan Helsel, DNR, 910 Highway 54 East, Black River Falls, WI 54615. The questionnaire and comment period runs through Feb. 28, 2014.

Because of the complexity and scope of the issues, Helsel expects the strategic analysis will take well over a year to complete the analysis.

The Central Sands area spreads across eight counties and includes more than 300 lakes and more than 800 miles of trout streams. Because the area has sandy soils that drain quickly, stream flows and lake water levels are highly influenced by groundwater levels and use, Helsel says.

Regional groundwater uses include private and public wells and high capacity wells associated with agricultural lands, municipal water supplies, and commercial and industrial facilities. Stream flows and lake levels also may be affected by surface water ditching, draining, and other activities, Helsel says.

DNR is undertaking the strategic analysis for the Central Sands region for a combination of reasons, including heightened public awareness and environmental concerns associated with declining surface water levels and increasing groundwater withdrawals. There are more than 3,070 high capacity wells in the region, and in 2012, those wells pumped more than 98 billion gallons.

"There is a wealth of information available that we want to consider in an analysis that can inform future discussions and decisions on water management in the area," Helsel says.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dan Helsel, DNR regional water leader, 715-284-1431

Last Revised: Wednesday, January 22, 2014

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