Via Capital Times:

STEVENS POINT — The battle lines over central Wisconsin’s groundwater resource couldn’t be clearer based on recent events here.

At virtually the same time wealthy potato growers hosted a fundraiser for Gov. Scott Walker, Portage County Executive Patty Drier was calling for better stewardship of groundwater. In her state of the county address, Drier noted the impact of both municipal and agricultural high-capacity wells on water supplies. It was a remarkable speech, one of the first in which an elected public official has staked out a clear position on this issue.

Drier noted that more groundwater is pumped in Portage County than in any other county in the state — 35 billion gallons in 2012 and 27 billion last year. And several other counties in the so-called Golden Sands region are pumping heavily, too. Applications for new high-capacity wells have skyrocketed, perhaps in response to drought and high prices for corn.

But lake dwellers, rural residents and small farmers in the area are worried about the impact of pumping on lakes, streams and other wells. Some tell horror stories about watching lakes shrink and wells go dry.

That prompted Drier to say, “It is time to lift our heads out of the sand and take some thoughtful actions that steward our groundwater resources instead of pitting water users against each other.”

It all boils down to this: Will Wisconsin find a way to tie high-capacity wells to rules that take into account the impact of those wells on other water users, or will it give special water baron status to a select few?

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