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Wisconsin’s Lakes, Streams Drying Up

High capacity wells are causing lakes and streams to disappear in Wisconsin, says the state's largest environmental group. (Clean Wisconsin)
High capacity wells are causing lakes and streams to disappear in Wisconsin, says the state's largest environmental group. (Clean Wisconsin)
November 10, 2016

MADISON, Wis. – The increase in the number of high-capacity wells across the state, particularly in Central Wisconsin, is draining lakes, threatening the state's outstanding trout streams and impacting private wells, according to Clean Wisconsin, the state's largest environmental group.

Clean Wisconsin recently filed nine lawsuits against the state’s Department of Natural Resources demanding the agency review the effects of these wells on nearby bodies of water.

Carl Sinderbrand, lead counsel for the lawsuits, says there is no debate. This is actually happening.

"We have lakes that have literally dried up,” he points out. “They are meadows. We have important, valuable trout streams, which have segments that are dry at times of the year. We have people who can't get drinking water."

The lawsuits are in response to the DNR's decision to rely on the opinion of Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, which states the DNR lacks authority to review the individual and cumulative effects of high-capacity wells.

Clean Wisconsin says this violates the agency's constitutional mandate to manage lakes, rivers, and streams as public resources.

According to Sinderbrand, the drawdown of water by these high-capacity wells associated with large farms, known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, is also impacting groundwater.

"As agriculture becomes much more concentrated and the yields become higher and denser, we're using a lot more fertilizers – manure as well as dry fertilizers – and that's getting into the groundwater," he explains.

As the lawsuits point out, the DNR's own scientists for months raised concerns about the negative impacts high capacity wells have on wetlands, streams, groundwater and lakes.

Sinderbrand says he sees a disturbing trend here.

"Over the past several years, we have seen legislation aimed at curtailing DNR's authority to protect these water bodies, which in our view contravenes, violates the Constitution," he states.

Clean Wisconsin says the water in these aquifers belongs to all the people of Wisconsin, not just the corporations that own the wells.


Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI