Study to evaluate groundwater impacts of frac sand mining, irrigated agriculture in Chippewa County

Contact Mike Parsen, mjparsen@wisc.edu, (608) 262-9419

The Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey (WGNHS), in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has begun a 5-year study to evaluate the impact of frac sand mining and irrigated agriculture in western Chippewa County. Project partners include Chippewa County and a diverse group of stakeholders, including several industrial sand mining companies, the Wisconsin Farmers Union, Trout Unlimited, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and local citizen representatives.

The project was developed in response to citizen concerns about possible cumulative impacts of new sand mines and irrigation on local groundwater and stream levels.

Project goals are to:

–Build a pair of soil water and groundwater flow models to evaluate the impacts of current and future water use on the hydrologic system in western Chippewa County.

–Provide results to project stakeholders and the public on a regular basis through informational presentations and a final report.

–Use the soil water and groundwater model results to explain how groundwater aquifers and connected streams are expected to respond to stressors, such as changes in landscape topography and increased pumping rates.

“This study seeks to provide sound scientific information to support informed decision-making,” says Mike Parsen, hydrogeologist with the WGNHS. “The results will be of direct value to the public, frac sand mine operators, farmers and local units of government.”

Results of the study will be shared as they become available on an annual basis, and are expected to benefit other areas of western Wisconsin with similar geology and sandstone deposits.

A full copy of the study proposal is available online at the Chippewa County website: http://www.co.chippewa.wi.us/images/stories/departments/landconservation/documents/NMM/GW_Proposal.pdf

For additional information, contact Mike Parsen at mjparsen@wisc.edu, 608-262-9419 or Paul Juckem, hydrologist with the USGS, at pfjuckem@usgs.gov, 608-821-3845.

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