MADISON, Wis. (AP) — High-capacity wells are draining two lakes in Wisconsin's central sands region, according to a study state environmental officials released Tuesday.
Then-Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill in 2017 mandating that the Department of Natural Resources study high-capacity wells' impact on Long, Plainfield and Pleasant lakes in Waushara County. The department's report found groundwater withdrawals for irrigated agriculture are indeed reducing water levels the three lakes.
The reductions have affected plants in Plainfield Lake, the report found. The impacts are more extensive on Long Lake. Human uses such as boating as well as fish, plants and lake chemistry have all been affected, the report said. Pleasant Lake has not seen significant impacts.
The study recommends creation of a water-use district that could reduce withdrawal impacts, saying far too many wells operate in the region to take a site-specific approach. About 3,100 high-capacity wells operate in the central sands region, the report said. More than 200 wells operate around Long Lake alone.
The DNR defines high-capacity wells as wells capable of pulling 70 gallons of water from the ground per minute.
The state Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments Monday on whether the DNR can consider cumulative effects high-capacity wells will have on nearby waters when granting well permits.