Saturday, March 18, 2017

DNR web pages, current & deleted, undermine WI water privatization bill

As predicted, the GOP-controlled Wisconsin Legislature complied with blatant, self-interested demands from major ag, dairy and other special interests by crafting a bill to loosen public oversight of groundwater and give some high-volume private operators permanent control of withdrawals regardless of the impacts on neighbors or downstream rivers, lakes and streams.

The move dovetails with all of GOP Gov. Scott Walker's intentional diminution and remake of the Department of Natural Resources into a 'chamber of commerce mentality' agency; the continuous cuts to the DNR's budget, his dismissal of science staff and the agency's stripping of climate change information from its websites.

With that as background, I refer you to the DNR's website that describes the Wisconsin Groundwater Council, a multi-agency group which produces a very important annual report.

Note this at the Groundwater quality section, and ask yourself with the groundwater giveaway bill speeding towards approval: is this is the right moment to turn over groundwater control in perpetuity to those sitting on high-volume withdrawal permits:

  • Wisconsin leads the nation in the number of public water systems that rely on groundwater. 
  • Over 97% of agricultural irrigation water and more than one third of the water used for commercial and industrial purposes come from groundwater supplies. 
  • Many ecosystems in Wisconsin are strongly dependent on groundwater availability and groundwater quality.
Also note at the Groundwater quantity section this description of the relationship between groundwater pumping and nearby waters - - and, again, ask yourself that same legislative and policy question:
What is frequently missed is that groundwater pumping always lowers water levels in aquifers and connected lakes, wetlands and streams; and always diverts flow to surface waters where groundwater would have discharged naturally. The amount of water level lowering and flow diversion is a matter of degree. At certain amounts of pumping in an area, aquifers can be perilously lowered, and streams, lakes and wetlands can dry.
Which is pretty much the position of conservationists and watchdogs who have already pointed to the dried-up Little Plover River 

near big Centrals Sands ag irrigation operations ,(above), and the receding Long Lake, and who see more of the same if when the groundwater giveaway bill is signed into law by Walker.

A final thought:

Imagine how embarrassing it would have been if the original, pre-scrubbed climate change page were still up on the DNR's website - - here's a comprehensive look at the before-and-after.

Imagine how much more criticism would be aimed at the groundwater giveaway bill if its drafters had to deal with this now-deleted DNR analysis about "likely" impacts - -  lower lake and stream water levels Wisconsin - - and why this is precisely the wrong time to deregulate groundwater oversight and accelerate falling lake levels:

Human activities that increase heat–trapping ("green house") gases are the main cause...  scientists agree that the following changes are likely if climate change patterns continue. 
  • Increased summer and winter temperatures will cause increased evaporation, lower lake water levels and warmer water, resulting in reduced habitat for cold water species and a loss of critical wetland areas.
  • Decreased winter ice cover will also contribute to increased evaporation and lower lake water levels which could have severe economic consequences for our valuable shipping industry, lakeshore recreation, and coastal businesses.
  • Changes in rain and snowfall patterns (including more frequent and severe storms) could change water flow in streams and rivers and increase stream bank erosion and runoff pollution.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Groundwater Council yearly report is mandated by State statute. I wonder how the report will be edited this year? Jim Dick and his staff will be very busy spinning a false but pretty picture of groundwater in the state. I suggest they take their vacations now.