Groundwater Quantity

The goal of the Central Sands Water Action Coalition continues to be advancing sustainable groundwater policies in the six-county region of Central Wisconsin. In 2005,  portions of the Little Plover River in Portage County dried up, most likely related to higher usage of high-capacity wells pumping groundwater to irrigate nearby crop lands during the summer growing season. The central sands region’s proliferation of high capacity well use resulted in a growing number of lakes, streams and wetlands becoming dry or nearly dry due to excessive pumping. The mistaken belief that there is an unlimited supply of water in the Central Sands region has led to irresponsible use of our groundwater resource. We continue to believe that smart, science-driven decision-making can guarantee that there is enough water for everyone, and we continue to advocate for the fair use of water resources among the diverse interests that live in the region.

Click here to read a 2013 article from the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, “Groundwater war pits Wisconsin farms against fish.”

Higher precipitation in the last several years has resulted in a new challenge – higher water levels during the current cyclical upward variation in precipitation patterns. In 2019 and 2020, a number of lakes used a “no wake” boating advisory due to the high water levels. Observers reported boathouses full of water and shoreline trees formerly on dry land are now dying in standing water.

Click here to read “How Wet Is It?” including the central sands region’s early 2020 precipitation data.

Since we’ve had cyclical patterns before of high and low precipitation, another downward pattern of less precipitation and decreased recharge through evapotranspiration will return at some point, as will problems of lowered surface waters in the central sands region for previously vulnerable lakes, rivers and wetlands that were impacted by high-capacity well pumping in the area.  It is also possible that a number of private wells used for household drinking water and perhaps wells for watering livestock will again be impacted negatively.  Thus, we need to work together with our farming families, local communities, and counties to find equitable, sustainable water-usage management solutions.  The DNR’s role in this sound, science-based management will be critical.

For further water quantity information, select from the sub-headings provided.