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Wisconsin water withdrawals

Every year, all registered high capacity property owners are required to submit monthly water use (withdrawal) totals to the DNR. Statewide, there are over 14,000 registered high capacity sources including over 13,000 groundwater and 1,000 surface water sources.

Wisconsin Water Use, a DNR story map, allows visitors to learn about water use in Wisconsin and explore 2018 water use data. Current and past water use data can also be explored through the water quantity data viewer and the water withdrawal search.

Each year, over 95% of property owners report on their water use. Most of the reports are submitted online. Those without meters either estimate or calculate their withdrawals with a DNR-approved method.

Withdrawal sources

The sources for Wisconsin withdrawals vary depending on the where the withdrawal takes place. A large majority of the water withdrawn is taken directly from Lake Michigan to supply cooling water for electric power generation and for municipal water supplies. In the Mississippi River Basin, groundwater plays a much bigger role in supplying municipal public water supplies and agricultural irrigation. There are relatively few withdrawals made in Wisconsin's portion of the Lake Superior Basin.

On average, annual withdrawals are about 2 trillion gallons of water. This volume is roughly:

  • three times the volume of water in Lake Winnebago;
  • enough to cover the surface area of Wisconsin in 2 inches of water;
  • 1.4 times the average annual flow in the Wisconsin River past the Dells; and
  • enough water to fill Lambeau Field about 4,700 times.

Sharing data

Statewide average water withdrawals by use
Statewide average water withdrawals by use.

To meet Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Resources Great Lakes Compact and state law requirements, the DNR maintains a database on water withdrawals and reports annual water use to the Great Lakes Commission [exit DNR].

Every year, Wisconsin creates a summary of the past year's withdrawals for the public. Locations and volumes of past reported withdrawals can be viewed using the Water Quantity Data Viewer.

Water use reports and summaries