Water Quality Task Force Meets in Lancaster

The Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality met for its first public hearing on May 8 in Lancaster. The task force heard from several research and farm groups before taking public testimony.

The Southwest Wisconsin Groundwater and Geology Study (SWIGG) started off the meeting with a discussion of their preliminary results released earlier this year. The study’s initial results found contamination in 42 percent of the wells tested in Iowa, Grant, and Lafayette counties. The next portion of SWIGG’s two-year study will look at well construction characteristics and sources causing contamination. SWIGG asked legislators on the task force for more funding for the study, but said they could not make any further legislative recommendations without the final results. After the study is completed, they suggested the legislature might need to look at revising the well code, upgrading septic systems, assessing groundwater factors in zoning, alternate manure handling, and nitrogen groundwater recommendations, among other ideas.

Next, the Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance (LASA) shared some ways farmers are working to reduce groundwater contamination. LASA’s ideas included more well sampling, new manure practices, and cover crop cost sharing. LASA said they support Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) and Rep. Joel Kitchens’s (R-Sturgeon Bay) bill (SB 91/AB 113) to allow buying and selling of water pollution credits.

After LASA’s presentation, the Wisconsin Pork Producers Association discussed how animal agriculture is working to protect water quality. Like LASA, they are updating their manure spreading practices and using cover crops to reduce groundwater impact. The Pork Producers Association recommended more research funding, producer-led watershed grants, and more state specialists to further help farmers improve water quality.

Next, a scientist from UW-Platteville’s Pioneer Farms presented an overview of its agroecosystems research. The program operates under the Wisconsin Agricultural Stewardship Initiative and seeks to evaluate the impact of farm management practices on the environment.

Finally, Discovery Farms gave an overview of their groundwater quality practices research and results. Discovery Farms works with farmers on water quality research and education.

The task force plans to meet for several more public hearings across the state. Previously, the task force met twice at the state capitol to hear testimony from farmers, conservation advocates, and state agencies. April meeting. March meeting.