UW Extension

Helping the U.S. Forest Service manage resources in northern Wisconsin

Anna FehlingThe Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF) of northern Wisconsin is home to abundant springs, streams, and lakes. However, there is little information available on these water resources. Anna Fehling, a hydrogeologist at University of Wisconsin–Extension’s Geological and Natural History Survey (WGNHS), is working to complete a multi-year study of groundwater in the CNNF. The study will further the understanding of groundwater in northern Wisconsin and help the U.S. Forest Service manage these resources amidst a changing environment.

Fehling explained the importance of groundwater in the forest, saying “It is used for water supply in northern Wisconsin. Many surface water features, particularly trout streams, are fed by groundwater. Changes in groundwater can impact water temperature and flow, and forest ecology in general.”

She is building on the work completed by others at the WGNHS to develop a comprehensive hydrogeology report and database. The study will help answer questions like, “How accessible and abundant is groundwater in the aquifer? What is the water quality, and what areas are vulnerable to contamination?”

Also as part of the project, Fehling is working with the U.S. Geological Survey to build a computer model to simulate the groundwater system. The model creates a water-table map showing the sources and sinks of groundwater. It can also be used for “what if” scenarios, simulating how streamflow and water levels could be affected by changes such as well pumping or drought.

The model and data will be made publicly available to be a building block for future studies in northern Wisconsin.

(Counties: Ashland, Bayfield, Florence, Forest, Langlade, Oconto, Oneida, Price, Sawyer, Taylor, Vilas)