Celebrate groundwater—Wisconsin’s buried treasure

Contact: Kevin Masarik, (715) 346-4276, kmasarik@uwsp.edu

Each year the National Ground Water Association designates one week to raise awareness of the vital role played by groundwater–our nation’s “buried treasure.” This year Groundwater Awareness Week is celebrated on March 10-16.

“Groundwater is a vital resource to our state,” says UW-Extension’s Kevin Masarik of the Central Wisconsin Groundwater Center. “Groundwater pumped out of the ground by wells is used to meet the daily water demands for nearly three-quarters of Wisconsin’s residents. It also provides nearly all of the water for our agricultural industry–irrigation, livestock and dairy operations.”

In addition to providing for human needs, groundwater is connected to surface waters and is largely responsible for sustaining Wisconsin’s streams, lakes and wetlands.

Masarik offers some suggestions for people to make the most of Groundwater Awareness Week:

–If you have your own well, have the water tested. “Spring is a great time to test well water, particularly for important health concerns like bacteria and nitrate,” says Masarik. A list of certified testing labs and information on what to test for is available on the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources “What’s Wrong with My Water” website at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/DrinkingWater/QualityProblems.html. You might also want to search online for the new “Wisconsin Well Water Viewer” (http://www.uwsp.edu/cnr-ap/watershed/Pages/wellwaterviewer.aspx) and use this new tool to see what data is available regarding private well water quality in your area.

–If your drinking water comes from a city water supply, there’s a good chance it is groundwater. Ninety-five percent of Wisconsin communities rely on groundwater. Contact your local water utility and ask them for the most recent water quality data or learn about how your community’s water supply is protected. Thank them for doing a great job of providing quality drinking water and ask how you can help.

–“Think Trout–Think Groundwater.” The Wisconsin Council of Trout Unlimited recommends tying some flies or better yet, fishing the early trout season as a way to celebrate Groundwater Awareness Week. Trout rely on the clean, clear, cool, oxygen-rich water characteristic of groundwater-fed streams. If you go, be sure to check the fishing regulations concerning the early trout season before heading out to your favorite river or stream.

–Take a hike to visit one of the 10,851 known springs in Wisconsin, many of them on state parks or other public lands. “Springs are important because they give a glimpse of water that may have been underground for years or even decades,” says Masarik. “In addition to providing scenic beauty, they often provide a home to unique and even endangered species.”

–Wells no longer in use represent a direct conduit for pollutants to contaminate the groundwater aquifer. If you have an unused well on your property, take steps to ensure that it is abandoned properly and will not contaminate groundwater in the future. Your local land conservation department may be able to assist you with this process.

–Do some spring cleaning of hazardous materials around your home so they do not end up contaminating groundwater or surface waters. Dispose of such materials properly. Do not dump them down a storm drain or into your septic system. Instead, find out where your community asks people to take hazardous wastes and plan a time to drop them off.

–Take steps to reduce the amount of water that you use everyday. Some quick and easy solutions include buying more efficient appliances, faucets and toilets. Planting less water-intensive landscaping and using rain barrels to collect rainfall for watering the garden can also help to conserve groundwater. Reducing water use often means lower water bills and greater energy savings. Installing a rain garden to collect storm water before it reaches the storm sewer can actually help to replenish our groundwater resources.

For more information about groundwater, go to http://www.uwsp.edu/cnr-ap/watershed/Pages/GroundwaterMaterials.aspx



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