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Another Wisconsin Groundwater-Protection Measure Dropped

High-capacity wells are causing lakes and streams in Wisconsin to dry up. (TT/iStockPhoto.com)
High-capacity wells are causing lakes and streams in Wisconsin to dry up. (TT/iStockPhoto.com)
March 6, 2017

MADISON, Wis. – Opponents of a legislative move (HB 105 and SB 76) to drop a provision that would have strengthened protections for Wisconsin's groundwater say it will pave the way for even more high-capacity wells.

Some of these wells draw 100,000 gallons a day from aquifers to provide water for huge factory farms, food processors and frac sand mine operations.

Amber Meyer Smith, director of government relations for the state’s largest environmental group Clean Wisconsin, says this paves the way for a bill to allow even more high-capacity wells.

"What the bill does is remove tools that could be used to address problems of lakes, rivers and streams drying up,” she points out. “These problems are most notable in the central sands area where you do see what were once lakefront property homes, now mud front property homes."

Landowners have asked the courts to force the Department of Natural Resources to implement stricter controls, but Meyer Smith says the DNR's hands are tied by an opinion of the attorney general that limits the DNR's power to regulate and control high-capacity wells.

Supporters of more wells include the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association, which has spent heavily to lobby the Legislature to loosen what the groups calls too-tight regulations on groundwater.

Meyer Smith says there has to be a solution that works for all the stakeholders.

"What we should be doing is creating a sustainable solution for how agriculture can get the water that it needs and all the users can get the water that they need," she states.

According to Meyer Smith, Wisconsin's neighboring states have regulations on high-capacity wells that protect groundwater for all users.

"Michigan has figured out how to do that sustainably,” she points out. “Minnesota has figured out how to do it sustainably. But for some reason in Wisconsin, we can't look towards that sustainable solution, or at least the Legislature has been unwilling to look at that sustainable solution."


Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI