The Monster in the Pipes: a Look into What is Happening below Your Feet

High Capacity Wells in Wisconsin

High Capacity Wells Wisconsin

High capacity wells in Wisconsin could drastically affect water levels in your favorite streams and lakes

High Capacity Wells’ Effects on Water Levels

Most people probably do not realize the sheer volume of water that high capacity wells draw from the water table. The Wisconsin Administrative Code defines a high capacity well system as “one or more wells, drillholes or mineshafts on a property that have a combined approved pump capacity of 70 or more gallons per minute” (High Capacity Well Information). This is an astounding number. Many of these high capacity wells draw over one million gallons of water every year. This high volume of water must be replaced in order to keep a balance in the water levels of aquifers.

How will a high capacity well affect fishing streams?

What drew my attention to the high capacity wells is my passion for fishing. Anything that draws water from aquifers certainly must be connected to the water levels of my favorite lakes and streams. When researching, I was alarmed to see very little statistics about the environmental impacts of these wells. Some research has been conducted, but the documentation is scarce. Since Wisconsin prides itself on the tourism drawn from fishing, I was surprised to not see more research being done into the impacts of these wells on the water table. Should these wells directly affect water tables, they would no doubt also directly affect fishing across the state, especially in central Wisconsin.

WI Approves High Capacity Well in Adams County

Recently, Wisconsin has approved a high capacity well in Adams County, not far from many of the streams that I love to fish. This well will soon pump millions of gallons of water from the area every year. While researching, I was shocked to learn that areas near lakes and streams are usually chosen for these wells because they offer opportunities for induced infiltration. Basically, when the aquifer is tapped to a very low point, nearby lakes and streams actually begin flowing back into the aquifer to bring balance back to the water level. This occurs underground, right below the feet of lake residents getting ready to head out on the pontoon boat. As the lake and stream water flows back to the aquifer, it is pumped up into the well. Essentially, the lake is being drained from beneath. Imagine the stir that would be created if a person set up a machine on his beach in plain sight that pumped 70 gallons of water per minute from a lake. Residents would be alarmed and there would be an outcry as the water levels dropped, especially if the area was going through a drought. The only difference with induced infiltration is that it does not occur in plain sight.

Conservation Issues from High Capacity Wells

High capacity well fishing

How will a high capacity well affect your favorite fishing streams?

As a sportsman, it is my firm belief that residents have a responsibility to protect our resources from danger… manmade or natural. More research needs to be conducted into high capacity wells and the precious water that they are taking from aquifers. Our lakes and streams are our treasures, and if they are in fact being attacked from under our feet, then there is a substantial obligation to pull the monster from the pipes, and put him into the spotlight.

“High Capacity Well Information.” Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 12 June 2014. Web. 20 Sept. 2014.

What do you think about the effects of high capacity wells on Wisconsin fishing? Let us know in the comments below and find more fishing information here.


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