Skip to main content

Safe Water For All

Running water falling into a person's hand.

Safe, clean drinking water is what everyone should expect when they turn on the faucet. It's what we expect in our rivers, lakes and streams. Gov. Evers declared 2019 the Year of Clean Drinking Water to address the fact that, unfortunately, all Wisconsinites do not have access to safe, clean drinking water. From emerging contaminants to ongoing issues concerning lead, runoff and other classic pollutants, working toward clean drinking water carries on the Wisconsin way – forward.

To help keep the public informed on the state of water in Wisconsin, the DNR is hosting the upcoming Safe Water For All Panel Series. Join us and use the resources on this page learn about some of the biggest threats to clean water in our state, what the DNR is doing to protect your health and solutions that we could implement today to ensure safe water for all.

Events

The DNR is hosting three panel discussions with experts on Wisconsin safe water topics. All three events will be broadcast on YouTube Live - no registration is needed.

Sept. 10, 2021: Sowing the Seeds for Change

Time: 12 p.m. - 1 p.m.

Description: Water gives us life and grows our food. Yet today too many who grow our food, can't drink their water. Listen to panelists discuss if carbon is the next cash crop and what could that mean for water quality. Learn how the agriculture carbon market is changing the supply chain, how America's farmers are helping reduce their carbon footprint and what it may mean for water quality.

Speakers:

  • Mary C. Anderson, Grazing and Conservation Agriculture Specialist, DNR
  • Tim Baye, Professor of Business Development and Farm Energy Specialist, Milwaukee Water Commons and UW-Extension
  • Dan Smith, President and CEO, Cooperative Network
  • Sara Walling, Division Administrator, Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection

Sept. 15, 2021: Threats on Tap - Marginalized Communities at Risk

Time: 11 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Description: While the Safe Drinking Water Act guarantees all Wisconsinites access to clean, drinkable water, not everyone can safely turn on the tap. The United States has remarkable water systems, developed over two centuries of technological, institutional and economic advances. However, the benefits of those systems have not been equally felt across the state. Water systems that serve marginalized areas – communities of color, low-income communities and rural communities – are more likely to be unsafe. Hear about the efforts to understand and to secure safe and affordable drinking water for every community.

Speakers:

  • Brenda Coley, Co-Executive Director, Milwaukee Water Commons
  • Margaret Ann Noodin, Director, Electa Quinney Institute for American Indian Education, UW-Milwaukee
  • Maria Redmond, Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy Director, Wisconsin Dept. of Administration
  • Regina Strong, Environmental Justice Public Advocate, Michigan Office of Environmental Justice, Michigan's Dept. of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

Oct. 12, 2021: Protecting the People - Safe Drinking Water for All

Time: 12 p.m. - 1 p.m.

Description: Wisconsin has a long history of protecting the state's waters and even led the nation in drinking water protection with the passage of the 1983 groundwater law. Approximately two-thirds of people living in Wisconsin get their drinking water from groundwater. Adequate supplies of uncontaminated groundwater are crucial not only for our health but also for our breweries, agricultural operations and cutting-edge industries in Wisconsin. Hear how Wisconsin is working to protect your health and what you can do to get involved.

Speakers:

  • Steve Elmore, Drinking Water & Groundwater Program Director, DNR
  • Jennifer Hauxwell, Associate Director, UW-Madison Aquatic Sciences Center
  • Jon Meiman, Chief Medical Officer and State Occupational and Environmental Disease Epidemiologist, Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services

Contaminants

The 2019 Year of Clean Drinking Water Report examined three priority contaminants that are threatening Wisconsin's water: lead, nitrate and PFAS. Read the report, then explore the infographics and resources on this page to learn more.

Lead
Safe Water For All: Wisconsin In Wisconsin - Lead infographic

Lead contamination in public water supplies is a health concern, including in Wisconsin. Lead plumbing is more likely to be found in apartments and homes constructed before 1986. There is a higher risk of lead corrosion where the water has high acidity or low mineral content. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), because of the number of older homes in Wisconsin — and aging faucets, fixtures and pipes — children living in Wisconsin are at higher risk for lead poisoning than children in many other states.

Nitrate
Safe Water For All: Wisconsin In Wisconsin - Nitrate infographic

Nitrate (NO3) is Wisconsin's most widespread groundwater contaminant. It poses an acute risk to infants and women who are pregnant, a possible risk to the developing fetus during very early stages of pregnancy, and a chronic risk of serious disease in adults. Since the early 1990s, it has been well-accepted that around 90% of nitrogen inputs to groundwater in Wisconsin can be traced to agricultural sources including manure spreading and fertilizer application.

PFAS
Wisconsin PFAS infographic

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large group of human-made chemicals that have been used in many consumer and commercial products. There is a growing public health concern over PFAS — which do not occur naturally and are widespread in the environment. They are found in people, wildlife and fish all over the world. Because PFAS do not break down easily in the environment, and some PFAS can stay in the body for a long time, they are referred to as "forever chemicals."