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Groundwater collaboration workgroup

Given the unique hydrogeology in certain regions of the state, specifically the karst geology in northeast Wisconsin, the Department of Natural Resources helped facilitate a groundwater work group to assess issues regarding landspreading and contamination of groundwater and drinking water wells.

This core group worked on overarching issues and developed proposed actions and potential solutions to reduce risk to public health and groundwater quality that can not only be applied in northeast Wisconsin and other vulnerable areas of the state.

Kewaunee County groundwater research - June 2017 public meeting

In 2015 the DNR and its partner organizations commissioned a two-year research study to determine types, sources and locations of groundwater and well contaminants in Kewaunee County to help collect scientific data that can help the department and other stakeholders formulate potential solutions.

Additional information about state agency efforts in Kewaunee County.

For more agency information about wells and water quality, see the following state agency websites.

Workgroup final report (June 2016)

The Groundwater Collaboration Workgroup Final Report was completed in June 2016. The final report includes short- and long-term recommendations for protecting groundwater in Kewaunee, Door and Brown counties, as well as recommendations that could be applied throughout Wisconsin. The report also outlines which organizations, groups or individuals are responsible for implementing the specific recommendations. The report is the result of a collaborative effort of local citizens, local government officials and state and federal representatives.

June 2016 Kewaunee County public meeting

A Kewaunee County public meeting on the groundwater workgroup’s final report was held June 23, 2016.

DNR role

The department served as facilitator for the work group and for any subgroups that formed. While some recommendations from this work group may be implemented by the DNR, many other recommendations may be proposed for CAFO operations, the dairy industry, local governments and other local agencies (e.g. health departments), other state agencies and the federal government.

Northeast Wisconsin

Several stakeholders expressed concern over groundwater contamination issues in northeast Wisconsin, including environmental groups and concerned citizens that requested the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigate contaminated wells in Kewaunee County. The workgroup sought input from these and other stakeholders and partners to help shape action plans and recommendations. These groups included (but were not limited to) U.S. EPA, farmers, citizens, local officials, agricultural and environmental groups, soil and water conservation and other state/federal agencies.

Core issues

Issues the work group focused on included (but were not limited to):

  • identification of susceptible areas;
  • landspreading/land application practices;
  • drinking water wells and groundwater protection;
  • nutrient management plans;
  • funding and resources;
  • spill response;
  • local perspectives; and
  • communications.


Four issue work groups met from fall 2015 through May 2016: Short Term Solutions, Compliance, Sensitive Areas and Communication. A final report was released to the public and posted online in June 2016.

Issue workgroups

Short Term Solutions

DNR staff support: Kyle A. Burton

Purpose: To review and define issues faced by individuals in Kewaunee County who have wells which are contaminated by bacteria and/or nitrate. The scope of the workgroup activities addressed concerns from these and other concerned citizens and sought avenues to provide clear information for those with contaminated drinking water to quickly and efficiently obtain a safe drinking water source.


Meeting date Documents
August 25, 2015
September 28, 2015
October 21, 2015
November 16, 2015
December 16, 2015

DNR staff support: Casey Jones

Purpose: To review and evaluate the compliance structure regarding regulated activities that may affect groundwater. This included activities regarding well installation/compliance, septic system compliance, municipal and industrial land application, septage waste land application and farm generated manure and process wastewater land application. The scope of this workgroup was to provide information for stakeholders to better understand the regulatory structure and ability of regulatory entities to monitor compliance as well as discuss potential tools and outreach methods to promote compliance.

Meeting date Documents
September 11, 2015
September 29, 2015
October 20, 2015
November 17, 2015
December 15, 2015
Sensitive Areas and Best Management Practices

DNR staff support: Andrew Craig

Purpose: To define sensitive areas that are high risk for groundwater pollution and to recommend management practices that may help reduce or eliminate groundwater pollution and the associated public health risk within these sensitive areas.

The workgroup compiled and reviewed existing information and research, and produced written guidance and recommendations that delineate sensitive areas and management practices within sensitive areas that may contribute to groundwater pollution and increased public health risk. The workgroup final product included, but was not limited to, narrative summaries along with maps, tables or matrices identifying sensitive areas and recommendations for use (or non-use) of practices intended to reduce or eliminate groundwater pollution in sensitive areas. The workgroup recommendations were intended for: DNR, local government officials, agricultural producers and other interested stakeholders located in these sensitive areas, including, but not limited to private residents, business owners, etc.

Meeting date Documents
August 25, 2015
September 22, 2015
October 21, 2015
November 23, 2015
December 15, 2015
January 21, 2016

Purpose: To discuss how to take the recommendations/items from the work groups and determine how best to communicate/reach out to our key stakeholders, audiences, etc., so they received the information in an understandable and accessible way.

Meeting date Documents
December 16, 2015
February 11, 2016
May 26, 2016