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MADISON — An annual report by the Wisconsin Groundwater Coordinating Council highlights the critical role groundwater plays in human health, the environment and economy and supports additional research and cooperation to understand how best to manage the precious resource.
The council was formed in 1984 to help state agencies coordinate activities and exchange information on groundwater. Today, it remains one of the few groups in the nation that effectively coordinates statewide groundwater efforts from an advisory position.
Russ Rasmussen, administrator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ water division, said the group’s work reflects the value of the resource in Wisconsin, a state that depends heavily on groundwater as a source of drinking water. Wisconsin also relies on groundwater to irrigate crops, support livestock and process a wide variety of foods while feeding the trout streams and spring-fed lakes that are vital to the state’s economy.
“Wisconsin remains a leader in groundwater quality and quantity but we must address new challenges and pursue new ideas if we are to sustain this resource for future generations,” said Rasmussen, who also chairs the council. “The report serves as a valuable guide that will help us tackle the most important research, public outreach and partnership efforts on groundwater issues now and in the years to come.”
Among the findings of the report to the Legislature:
• Continued collaboration among various units of government is needed to ensure effective management practices and increase awareness of issues that may affect the state’s groundwater resources.
• Additional research should be undertaken to evaluate the occurrence of viruses and other pathogens in groundwater and develop appropriate response tools.
• The public and private sectors must work in partnership to implement practices that afford greater protection against nitrate and other agricultural contaminants such as pesticides. Nitrate contamination in drinking water is a common occurrence in Wisconsin and poses serious health risks to infants, women who are pregnant and adults with lifelong exposure.
• Agencies should develop and implement strategies that lead to efficient use of nitrogen and careful or reduced use of pesticides to protect drinking water sources.
• Better scientific models are needed to help predict the impact of groundwater withdrawals on other waters of the state.
• Additional monitoring efforts should be put in place to quantify changing conditions, identify emerging threats and develop cooperative solutions.
To learn more about the fiscal 2014 report, visit dnr.wi.gov and search for “Groundwater Coordinating Council.”