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WI Groundwater Protection Top 2015 Conservation Priority

PHOTO: Even with all of Wisconsin's rivers, streams and lakes, some communities are in near crisis because of a lack of groundwater. The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters says it will make groundwater protection its top goal in 2015. Photo courtesy of Clean Wisconsin.
PHOTO: Even with all of Wisconsin's rivers, streams and lakes, some communities are in near crisis because of a lack of groundwater. The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters says it will make groundwater protection its top goal in 2015. Photo courtesy of Clean Wisconsin.
December 17, 2014

MADISON, Wis. - "A few small steps forward." That's how Anne Sayers, program director for the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, describes what's been accomplished this year to help protect Wisconsin's environment.

Sayers said 2014 brought renewed citizen involvement in the Badger State, with thousands of people calling their legislators and going to Madison for hearings on conservation issues. For the upcoming legislative session, she said, groundwater protection will be the Conservation Voters' top priority.

"That's not a political analysis; that is just reality," she said. "Across Wisconsin, citizens are facing water shortages. It's nearing a crisis point for some communities. We need to figure out a proactive plan in Wisconsin to address how we're going to use our water and how we're going to manage it for the long term."

Even with all of Wisconsin's rivers, streams and lakes, many of the aquifers below the ground are drying up, Sayers said. She blamed years of unregulated water use and said her group will encourage and support measures in the Legislature to protect groundwater supplies for future generations.

According to Sayers, 2014 brought a huge step backward for Wisconsin's environment.

"The open-pit mining bill was, some say, the worst environmental bill in Wisconsin's history," she said. "It essentially exempted iron-mining companies from having to follow all of the rules that other companies and industries in Wisconsin must follow."

Supporters of the open-pit mining bill said it was essential to creating new jobs.

The hills of western Wisconsin supply nearly three-quarters of the sand used in the United States for hydraulic fracturing - or "fracking" - for natural gas. While this has meant an economic boom for that part of the state, Sayers said it's come at a huge price.

"The unfortunate thing is, it sprang up so quickly that there's really no oversight over this industry, and we're finding that violations are occurring," she said. "We're seeing runoff into trout streams, air quality harming kids' health - and we aren't seeing repercussions for that."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI