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data about the quality of groundwater near homes or businesses or get an estimate of groundwater availability.
the quality and quantity of groundwater for your family, business customers and community.
where your groundwater comes from and how it moves underground to reach your drinking water well and the lakes and streams you enjoy.

GCC Report to the Legislature Recommendations

The GCC identifies its recommendations for future groundwater protection and management [PDF]. These recommendations include top priorities of immediate concern, ongoing efforts that require continued support and emerging issues that will need to be addressed in the near future.

Priority recommendations

Evaluate the occurrence of viruses and other pathogens in groundwater and groundwater-sourced water supplies and develop appropriate response tools

Viruses and other microbial pathogens have been found in municipal and domestic wells, challenging previous assumptions about their persistence and transport. Monitoring and assessment should focus on refining our understanding of pathogens in groundwater, in particular where and when they pose threats to human health. Agencies should also work with partners to increase awareness of waste disposal choices, their risks and costs.

Background on the issue and the rationale for the recommendation:

Implement practices that protect groundwater from nitrate and other agricultural contaminants (microbial agents, pesticides and their degradates)

Nitrate that approaches and exceeds unsafe levels in drinking water is one of the top drinking water contaminants in Wisconsin, posing an acute risk to infants and women who are pregnant, a possible risk to the developing fetus during very early stages of pregnancy, and a chronic risk of serious disease in adults. In addition, pesticides are estimated to be present in approximately 40% of private drinking water wells in Wisconsin. Areas of the state with a higher intensity of agriculture generally have higher frequencies of detections of pesticides and nitrate. Agencies should develop and evaluate a strategy to promote practices that lead to efficient use of nitrogen and careful or reduced use of pesticides in order to protect drinking water sources. Implementation of these practices should be supported with appropriate technical tools and incentives such as:

  • Identifying sensitive areas of the state based on geology where elevated nitrate is present
  • Developing soil type specific nitrogen nutrient land application rates and cropping best management practices that minimize nitrogen losses to groundwater
  • Encouraging the use of soil type specific nitrogen nutrient land application rates and cropping best management practices, developed to minimize nitrogen losses to groundwater in identified sensitive areas of the state
  • Developing educational materials for farmers and Nutrient Management Planners that identify specific alternate cropping and nutrient management practices that could be voluntarily implemented to minimize agricultural nitrogen losses to groundwater

Background on the issue and the rationale for the recommendation:

Support the sustainable management of groundwater quantity and quality in the state to ensure that water is available to be used, which will protect and improve our health, economy, and environment now and into the future

water use chart

2014 Total Groundwater Withdrawals by Water Use.

This includes:

  • supporting an inventory of information on the location, quantity and uses of the state's groundwater;
  • supporting targeted monitoring and modeling of the impact of groundwater withdrawals on other waters of the state
  • supporting identification and evaluation of options for areas with limited groundwater resources; and
  • Supporting research relating to changes in land-use development patterns and the resulting increase in groundwater use and changes to recharge

Background on the issue and the rationale for the recommendation:

Ongoing recommendations

Without ongoing attention to the following needs, Wisconsin cannot address the priority recommendations (see above) or begin to understand emerging issues (see below).

Support implementation of the Statewide Groundwater Monitoring Strategy

Nested piezometers installed for monitoring groundwater levels and sampling for groundwater contaminants near Spring Green.

Nested piezometers installed for monitoring groundwater levels and sampling
for groundwater contaminants. Photo credit: Blake Russo-Nixon..

Chapter 160 of the Wisconsin Statutes requires the DNR to work with other agencies and the GCC to develop and operate a system for monitoring and sampling groundwater to determine whether harmful substances are present (s. 160.27, Wis. Stats.). The strategy has been incorporated into the DNR Water Monitoring Strategy, but needs are constantly evolving as new problems emerge. For example, food processors, homeowners, municipalities, and well drilling contractors need more information about the origin and extent of naturally occurring contaminants such as arsenic, other heavy metals, acidic conditions, sulfate, total dissolved solids, radium and uranium. Wisconsin should improve the accessibility of current data and continue to encourage research efforts that will provide information for addressing these issues. State agencies, the university, and federal and local partners should continue to implement and modify this strategy to efficiently meet monitoring objectives..

Background on the issue and the rationale for the recommendation:

Continue to catalog Wisconsin's groundwater resources

Management and protection of Wisconsin’s groundwater resources requires publically-accessible and up-to-date data in order to foster informed decisions, not only on state policy matters but also for sound business decisions on siting or technology investments. State agencies and the University should continue to collect, catalog, share and interpret new data about Wisconsin’s groundwater so that it can be used by health care providers and people seeking business locations, as well as homeowners and local governments.

Continue to support applied groundwater research

Focus on investments to identify and test cost-effective groundwater protection strategies [PDF] that can prevent groundwater problems before they need to be remediated at a much greater cost. State agencies should work to maximize collaboration to answer the key groundwater questions facing Wisconsin water suppliers. To maintain adequate levels of support, agencies should seek leveraging partnerships for applied analysis and innovation.

Emerging challenges

Industrial sand mining

Aerial view of Badger site

Aerial view of an industrial sand mine in Wisconsin.

Since 2010, unprecedented growth of industrial sand mining and processing has occurred in West-Central Wisconsin and is expected to continue growing for another decade. The potential impact of this industry on groundwater resources has not been comprehensively evaluated, which would be the first step to avoid problems and plan for restoration. Wisconsin should support data analysis and field investigations to understand how this industry might impact groundwater. Agencies should partner with industry and local governments to develop and adapt site analysis and best-management practices for this industry.

Livestock industry expansion

Since 2010, many animal feeding operations that house thousands of animals have been sited or proposed in Wisconsin. These operations require large quantities of groundwater for both animals and animal food crops, and must also dispose of large amounts of animal waste. Wisconsin agencies should develop efficient and effective ways for measuring groundwater quality and quantity conditions in and around these operations. Agencies, industry and local governments should partner to develop policies and innovations that allow for effective siting and efficient operation of these facilities, while still protecting groundwater quality and quantity.

Background on the issue and the rationale for the recommendation:

Effects of extreme weather

Aerial view of Badger site


More prolonged drought or heat waves can increase groundwater demand at the same time as reducing supply. Groundwater quality may be affected by large fluctuations in water table elevation that can occur with extreme weather. More severe flooding can affect groundwater quality, wells and water system operations. Public drinking water supplies as well as water-dependent industries need reliable estimates of these effects in order to develop practical emergency response and adaptation strategies. To understand and predict the impact of these changes on the state’s groundwater, agencies should develop the data and provide analyses of likely scenarios for quantity and quality of Wisconsin’s groundwater supply.

Metallic mining

Lead, zinc, iron and copper deposits exist around Wisconsin. These deposits may be mined in the future and are located in sparsely-populated regions where background information on groundwater resources is often incomplete. The state should support background data collection and groundwater assessments so that future decisions about potential mining operations can be made most efficiently.

Last revised: Thursday August 30 2018