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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

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April 2006

Walking on water

Natasha Kassulke and Laura Chern

Perspectives on groundwater

Groundwater in Wisconsin is indeed a treasure. But like all our natural bounties, it is a treasure whose high value must be sustained not by accident but by purpose (1983, "Groundwater: Wisconsin's buried treasure," WNRM).

Catching trout in crisp clear streams, shooting the rapids in a canoe, lazing around the lake in an inner tube, quenching your thirst on a hot summer day – none of these activities would be possible without groundwater. For most of us in Wisconsin, the water we drink, wash with, float on and fish in comes from right below our feet. Groundwater is Wisconsin's invisible resource – our buried treasure.


"Groundwater: Wisconsin's buried treasure" was first published in 1983 to educate citizens about the resource we use every day but can't see. Later versions of the publication highlighted actions state agencies and individuals were taking to safeguard groundwater. In 2006, we look back at the progress made and look forward to new challenges in protecting the groundwater resource. It seems fitting that we go back to the original title for this new version of "Groundwater: Wisconsin's buried treasure."

Perspectives on groundwater

In 1983, the only option state agencies had for stopping groundwater polluters was litigation under public nuisance laws. The Environmental Protection Agency had set health-based drinking water standards for only 16 harmful substances. State agencies were learning more and more about where and how groundwater occurred and about how vulnerable the resource was. Our state's pioneering "Groundwater Law" was passed in 1984 and laid a plan for state agencies to work together for groundwater protection.

Pure, healthy groundwater is vital to our present, past and future economies. © DNR Photo
Pure, healthy groundwater is vital to our present, past and future economies.

© DNR Photo

Fast forward to 2006; Wisconsin has limits for over 100 pollutants that threaten groundwater; a new "Water Quantity" law that regulates use; and we have studied groundwater flow in almost every corner of the state. Read on, to learn about Wisconsin's groundwater, how state agencies work together to protect this precious resource and how you can help.

© 2006, Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources