In September 2021, the Northland College Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation convened a Water Summit titled “Aversion to Diversion: Groundwater, Bottled Water, and the Great Lakes Compact.” Following the summit, the Center released a white paper that put the hydrogeology of the region’s artesian resources into a statewide context while making several specific policy recommendations.
The primary recommendation was to “thoroughly map the regional artesian zone, calculate its volume, and quantify recharge and discharge rates.” One year later, scientists have begun mapping Bayfield County’s artesian wells.
Wisconsin Public Radio and the Ashland Daily Press both reported this fall that Bayfield County residents will soon have access to a map of the county’s artesian wells. This summer, the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey began mapping the county’s artesian wells and quantifying how much water is flowing from them.
“This is a wonderful first step toward understanding more about the county’s artesian resources,” said Valerie Damstra, Burke Center operations manager and coordinator of the summit. “In order to protect or regulate groundwater resources, you have to know what’s there to begin with.”
The water summit and white paper were prompted by a controversy that emerged following a proposal to bottle and sell water from an artesian well in Bayfield County. The summit also focused on big-picture issues raised by the controversy and provided more context and perspective about the region’s unique artesian groundwater resources.
“The center looks forward to the mapping results, and to seeing what comes next,” said Damstra. “These data will help the county make good decisions about water moving forward.”