Guest Column by Daniel Meyer, Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
August is National Water Quality Month, providing an opportunity to highlight the ongoing work by Governor Walker’s administration to protect the precious water resources we have in Wisconsin. Under the Governor’s leadership, the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has good news to report.
More than 99 percent of the state’s public water systems provided water that met safe drinking water standards, according to our 2017 Annual Drinking Water Report. Monitoring is a critical part of the strategy. DNR and its partners conducted more than 2,600 inspections of public water systems to ensure compliance with construction, operation and maintenance requirements.
To address a critical health issue, the DNR, working with the EPA, initiated a funding plan that provided nearly $27 million to 42 Wisconsin communities over a 2-year period to assist them in replacing lead service lines at homes, schools and daycare facilities. More than $6 million went to Milwaukee alone to replace an estimated 1,000 lead service lines. This reflects a major investment by the state in the health and safety of residents across Wisconsin.
Water quality issues in northeast Wisconsin, particularly Kewaunee County, have been developing for decades. This administration, through the DNR, was the first to commission scientific research to get at the root of the problem in order to find solutions.
The DNR facilitated a Kewaunee Groundwater Work Group in 2016 that brought together interested parties from all sides of the issue. As a result of the group’s report, Wisconsin DNR revised the administrative rule known as N.R. 151 that will strengthen nonpoint source pollution performance standards. That revised rule was implemented July 1.
Additionally, the DNR samples rivers, lakes and streams every year. This information is used to identify which are healthy and need to be protected and which should be added to the biennial impaired waters list – most due to decades of pollution – so a restoration plan can be developed. According to the Water Quality Report we submitted to EPA on April 1, 2018- 82% of the assessed waters are healthy. Through a variety of pollution reduction and mitigation efforts, thirty-five (35) water bodies will be removed from the Impaired Waters list this year. That’s the most to be removed since 2010.
More than 159,000 lake acres were removed from the fish consumption advisory for PCBs. This is one of the largest fish consumption de-listings since 2008.
Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) studies are one tool we use to identify pollution reductions needed to meet water quality standards and restore the health of our valued waterbodies. TMDL studies have been established for several large river basins already: the Rock, the St. Croix/Red Cedar, the Lower Fox and the Milwaukee River basins. New restoration plans are in the works for the Wisconsin River and Upper Fox/Wolf River basins.
Everyone wants clean, safe water. Water is essential to our health and well-being. It can be taken for granted as we go about our daily lives. Fortunately, Governor Walker’s administration, through the DNR, has worked proactively to ensure Wisconsin has clean, safe water now and in the future.