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DNR starting Central Sands groundwater and surface water study

MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) -- Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources is in the early stages of a major groundwater and surface water study looking closely at much of central Wisconsin. Dan Helsel is the DNR’s Regional Water Leader, and says the study is in an eight-county area from Marathon down to Juneau and Adams Counties known as the Central Sands region. Helsel says there are hundreds of feet of sand on top of bedrock, which holds a lot of water, but also allows that water to flow relatively quickly through it.

Helsel says they know many different interests are concerned about groundwater and surface water issues , and it’s an emotional issue for lakefront property owners, those that use streams, municipal water systems, and farms of all sizes. “We’d like to pull together all of the information we have for the Central Sands, and how those two interact, what they mean for people socially, what water levels people need to enjoy their lakes and streams, as well as what kind of groundwater use folks need to maintain their businesses and provide safe drinking water.”

Helsel says this study will take time and a great deal of public input, since you can’t simply solve water problems by not drilling any more wells. “It’s not just as simple as more wells go in and your water goes away. The relationship between groundwater use and surface water protection is very complex, and we need to build in economic and social issues along with the science.”

This study may focus on quantity issues, but Helsel says the DNR is still working on water quality issues, too. He says there’s progress in areas like preventing farm runoff, but room for improvement. “Unfortunately, we haven’t solved all of our water quality issues either in the Central Sands. As you may know, the department is working on preparing a water pollution control plan for the Wisconsin River Watershed, which will include many of these areas.”

Helsel advises everyone interested to go to the DNR’s website for more information on this study, and give feedback. He says they need input on the scope of the document in these early stages of the study so they make sure they cover all of the issues people think are important.

The eight county Central Sands area includes about 300 lakes, 800 miles of trout streams, and several agricultural, industrial, and municipal users of water resources.

(You can listen to our interview with Dan Helsel from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on our website, here.)