Skip to main content

Groundwater quantity

GCC Report to the Legislature

Groundwater is abundant in Wisconsin and available in sufficient amounts throughout most of the state. Groundwater provides adequate water supplies for most municipal, industrial, agricultural and domestic uses. However, groundwater pumping can lower water levels in an aquifer and in certain settings reduce groundwater discharge to surface water bodies connected to the aquifer.

Water quantity trends and topics

Water use

Water Withdrawal and High Capacity Well Viewer.
Water Withdrawal and High Capacity Well

The 2018 Water Use StoryMap showed that the largest category of groundwater withdrawals was municipal public water supplies (DNR 2019). The second largest category of groundwater withdrawal in the state was agricultural irrigation. Agricultural irrigation water use varies from year to year depending on the timing of rainfall during the growing season.

» Read more.


Groundwater/surface water interactions

The Little Plover River has dried in parts during various years since 2005
The Little Plover River has dried in parts
during various years since 2005. © UW-SP

In many areas of the state groundwater and surface water are well connected, requiring a better understanding of the role water withdrawals have on streamflow and lake water levels.

» Read more.



Regional drawdowns

Irrigation of field.

Several areas of Wisconsin have seen regional drawdowns of the groundwater due to extensive groundwater withdrawals. These drawdowns can affect water availability and water quality.

» Read more.



Groundwater flooding

Graph of The status of water levels as compared to the long-term average in Waushara County shows above average precipitation in recent years.
The status of water levels as compared to
the long-term average in Waushara County
shows above-average precipitation in recent

Department staff track recent and historical precipitation and compare that data to long-term averages to characterize and identify trends. These precipitation patterns are compared to water level readings in monitoring wells statewide. Most of the state has received well-above-average precipitation in recent years and groundwater data reflects this trend. Groundwater levels are at or near all-time historic highs throughout the state, which is consistent with groundwater flooding reports received by the department in recent years.

» Read more.


Water quantity tools and strategies

Statewide groundwater level network

Wisconsin's groundwater-level monitoring network has been operated jointly by WGNHS and USGS since 1946.
Wisconsin's groundwater-level monitoring
network has been operated jointly by
WGNHS and USGS since 1946.

Water levels collected from the network help scientists and managers evaluate effects of well pumping, the response of groundwater levels to drought or increased precipitation and effects of land-use change on groundwater resources.

» Read more.
» View the network [exit DNR].
» Watch the WGNHS video about the network.


Water use data

Wisconsin Water Quantity Data Viewer.
Wisconsin Water Quantity Data Viewer.

The DNR's interactive map viewer allows the public to access information about approved surface and groundwater withdrawals, existing and pending high capacity wells, water quantity monitoring by various agencies and locations of groundwater protection features throughout Wisconsin. The DNR's water use search tool allows users to find individual or aggregate water withdrawals from high-capacity wells and surface water withdrawals.


» Wisconsin Water Quantity Data Viewer
» High capacity well and surface water withdrawal search

Little Plover River Model and Watershed Enhancement Project

Little Plover River.
Little Plover River © WGNHS.

A state-of-the-art groundwater flow model was developed as a tool for understanding the interactions between groundwater withdrawals and streamflow in the Little Plover River basin in Wisconsin's Central Sands region. As stakeholders work together to evaluate management options to ensure sustained flows in the river, the model allows “what-if” evaluations of possible water use or land-use changes.

» Read more.

Central Sands Lakes Study

Installation of lakebed piezometer.
Installation of lakebed piezometer © DNR.

Under 2017 Wisconsin Act 10, the legislature requested that the DNR evaluate and model the potential impacts of groundwater withdrawals on three lakes in Waushara County. The study findings showed that the reduction caused by groundwater withdrawals to study lake levels is a result of the collective impact from many high-capacity wells rather than any specific high-capacity well.

» Read more.
» Watch the Findings & Recommendations Overview.


Chippewa County Groundwater Model

Chippewa County field
Chippewa County © WGNHS.

Chippewa County worked with Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey (WGNHS) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to conduct a groundwater resources study in western Chippewa County to evaluate the relationship between groundwater withdrawals and water levels in nearby wells. The model can be used to evaluate how changes in pumping rates, placement of new high-capacity wells and changes to the landscape affect wells and streams in the future.

» Read more.

Groundwater Coordinating Council