Understanding the Effects of Groundwater Pumping on Lake Levels

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Project Number:

DNR-202

Funding Year:

2007

Contract Period:

7/1/2007 - 6/30/2009

Funding Source:

DNR

Investigator(s):
PIs:
  • George J. Kraft, Center for Watershed Science and Education College of Natural Resources, UW – Stevens Point / Extension
  • David J. Mechenich, Center for Watershed Science and Education College of Natural Resources, UW – Stevens Point / Extension
Abstract:

The study summarized here examined the impacts of groundwater pumping on Wisconsin Central Sands water resources. Prominent hydrologic studies in the 1960s and 1970s warned that the growth in groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the region could substantially lower water levels and streamflows. Irrigation pumping nonetheless grew unchecked in succeeding decades, and presently encompasses some 2,300 high capacity wells that service 200,000 acres.

Since 2000, Central Sands water levels and stream discharges have been notably stressed, at least in areas that contain large densities of high capacity wells. These stresses have included the drying of streams and lakes. Questions exist as to the causes of stressed conditions, and the relative role of weather and pumping.

The purpose of this study was to determine the impacts of groundwater pumping on Central Sands water resources. Specific objectives were to:

1. Assemble available lake level, groundwater level, and stream baseflow data.
2. Collect new stream baseflow data.
3. Evaluate assembled stream, lake, and groundwater level data for indications of pumping impacts.
4. Expand and improve upon an existing groundwater flow model for the region.
5. Use the improved flow model to evaluate potential impacts of groundwater pumping on lake levels, groundwater levels, and stream baseflows.

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