Protecting Wisconsins Buried Treasure: Celebrating the Results of 20 Years of Coordinated Groundwater Research and Monitoring

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03/01/2007 - 02/29/2008

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  • Stephen Wittman, University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute
  • James Hurley, UW-Madison

Ensuring a sustainable supply of safe, high-quality groundwater is of fundamental importance to the present and future health of the economy, environment and people of Wisconsin. The state has an estimated 1.2 quadrillion gallons of groundwater, from which 70 percent of Wisconsins population draws its drinking water. Threats to Wisconsin’s groundwater supply include excessive drawdown of aquifers in several areas, arsenic contamination and nitrate pollution, among others. At the same time that Congress created the federal Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) Program in the Water Resources Research Act of 1984, the Wisconsin Legislature enacted Act 410the Groundwater Research and Monitoring Program (GRMP)to improve the management of the state’s groundwater. This act established a Groundwater Coordinating Council (GCC) made up of representatives of state agencies with groundwater protection responsibilities. The GCC thus provides the mechanism whereby the University of Wisconsin System and the state departments of Commerce, Natural Resources, and Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection work together to pool limited state and federal resources to support a coordinated, comprehensive and multidisciplinary response to the states critical water resource issues. The coordination of groundwater research and monitoring among multiple state government agencies and the states principal research university is unique to Wisconsin and offers a model for other states. Over the last two decades, the GRMP has played a significant role in establishing Wisconsin as a national leader in groundwater research and management and leveraging the states WRRI funds to maximum effect. The primary objective of this one-year project is to use the occasion of the GCCs 20th anniversary in 2006 to document the accomplishments, impacts and successes of both the GRMP and WRRI during their first 20 years. This project is designed to draw political (state and federal), news media and public attention to the results, impacts and benefits of the WRRI in Wisconsin as well as the states unique Groundwater Research and Monitoring Program. The project will produce an overview pamphlet and a series of fact sheets on Wisconsins most important groundwater resource issues. The goal of this project is to draw public and media attention to the importance of groundwater quality and quantity issues to the state and the crucial role the WRRI, GRMP and GCC plays in addressing those issues. The project will also provide a UW-Madison graduate student in Water Resources Management and/or Science Communications with financial support via a one-year halftime project assistantship as well as valuable experience and training from researching and writing about the past 20 years of groundwater research, interacting with officials of multiple state agencies, and working with award-winning science communications professionals at the UW-Madison Aquatic Science Center, administrative home of the UW Water Resources Institute.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. (2006). Groundwater:  Wisconsin’s Buried Treasure.

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