Legislature on Brink of First Step To Groundwater Protections
March 8, 2004
MADISON — After years of public debate and months of meetings between interested parties the Wisconsin legislature is poised to pass important standards for managing Wisconsin’s water resources (Senate Bill 524 / Assembly Bill 926). Clean Wisconsin, an environmental advocacy group, believes this is a good first step toward a solution. “Overall, we support this bill,” said Scheer. “It does not protect all of Wisconsin’s groundwater dependant resources but through future study this state can reach this important goal.”
Wisconsin has a long history of ensuring its citizens’ right to use but not abuse the state’s waterways and water resources. Among these rights the constitution guarantees access to hunt, fish, boat, and enjoy scenic beauty. When Perrier® attempted to set up water bottling plants near Big Springs and the Mecan River, groups throughout the state organized in strong opposition. Through this fight it became apparent that the state needed to enact laws to protect against groundwater resource abuse.
Through an inclusive process Representative DuWayne Johnsrud, Senator Neil Kedzie, and their staff members brought together multiple representatives interested in and affected by groundwater management. All of these stakeholders shared a common interest in protecting this important economic and spiritual resource. By bringing these groups together, Kedzie and Johnsrud were able to fashion a good first step toward comprehensive management of Wisconsin’s water resources.
“It is no accident the many churches and places of worship throughout Wisconsin have imitation springs in their sanctuaries,” stated Derek Scheer, Water Policy Director for Clean Wisconsin. “People cherish the purity of water bubbling out of the ground and recognize its importance to our state.”
This compromise sets standards for the DNR to promote better decision making. As a first step, these protections are in place around special resources like trout streams and large springs. This bill forms an advisory committee to look at where the protections need to be expanded in the future. It also puts in place a way for local governments in areas that are experiencing dramatic groundwater declines to work together to find a solution.