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Home > Natural Resources > Water Strategies to Preserve Natural Resource Supplies and Quality

Communities Plan for Safe Drinking Water

Protection of groundwater from contamination is a concern.

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California water conservation irrigation Many communities rely heavily on their groundwater for consumer and business fresh water supplies. America's aging infrastructure and levels of chemical use in agriculture and industry are intruding on the quality of this water supply. One state that relies heavily on fresh water wells is taking steps to ensure their water supply. California relies heavily on river, snowpack and ocean water at the current time, but wells could play a greater role as court mandates affect distribution of water among regions, environmental sustainability and human usages.

Groundwater protection and research programs

While Wisconsin has one of the most comprehensive groundwater protection and research programs in the nation and groundwater standards for more than 130 substances to protect public health and welfare, contamination of groundwater is still a concern.

Up to 40 percent of private wells in some areas of the state show detectable levels of contaminants that present a human health concern. Nitrate, for example, has been found in more than 11 percent of private wells, and pesticides or their breakdown products have been identified in 38 percent of private wells.

Private Wells Provide Groundwater

Wisconsin relies heavily on its groundwater--97 percent of communities in the state and nearly 1 million additional residents with private wells use groundwater for their daily needs.

A new web site provides easy access to information about Wisconsin’s groundwater to assist local governments in protecting this vital resource and to help owners of private wells tap into safe drinking water supplies.

The site, located at can play a key role in learning about local groundwater quality and quantity during National Groundwater Awareness Week, March 9-15.

“Clean, adequate water supplies are an important foundation for healthy citizens and a healthy economy,” said Charles Dunning, Assistant Director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Wisconsin Water Science Center. “We are pleased to offer information that is so important to people throughout this state.”

“This web site gives local governments valuable county-by-county information and tools to help them do a better job of protecting this resource in their comprehensive planning processes,” says Lynn Markham, Land Use Specialist from the University of Wisconsin-Extension Center for Land Use Education.

The site incorporates select groundwater data and policy information from 16 federal, state and local agencies. Maps and other easy-to-use formats provide data for each of Wisconsin's 72 counties on sources of drinking water, groundwater-protection policies, money spent on cleanup, groundwater use, susceptibility of groundwater to pollutants and groundwater quality.

Real examples of how communities have protected their drinking water supplies through land use planning are included in the web site. Some communities have maintained forested or other natural land uses in groundwater-well-recharge areas to minimize contamination threats.

Communities have recognized that the quality of their groundwater depends on how food is grown within their community. As a result, they have adopted incentives for farmers to grow organic crops or those that don’t require heavy fertilizer use.

The web site doesn’t residents what's in their well specifically, but provides very useful information on the general quality of water in their region. This information is important for people to consider before buying land if they plan to drill a well.

The web site was developed jointly by the Center for Land Use Education at UW-Stevens Point and the USGS Wisconsin Water Science Center. Funding for this project came from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the UW System through the Wisconsin Groundwater Coordinating Council. Additional funding was provided by the USGS Cooperative Water Program.

USGS provides science for a changing world. For more information, visit

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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