UW Extension

Managing Chippewa County’s groundwater—today and tomorrow

Mike Parsen at sand mine

Mike Parsen at a sand mine in Chippewa County

Mike Parsen and Madeline Gotkowitz, hydrogeologists at the UW-Extension’s Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey (WGNHS), are wrapping up a 5-year study that evaluated the impacts of industrial sand mines and irrigated agriculture on the Chippewa County’s water resources.

In 2012, the WGNHS partnered with hydrologists Mike Fienen and Paul Juckem of the U.S. Geological Survey Wisconsin Water Science Center (USGS-WWSC) to conduct the groundwater study. This study was commissioned by the Chippewa County Department of Land Conservation and Forest Management to evaluate groundwater quantity and ensure the sustainability of groundwater resources. These issues are of particular importance to Chippewa County where a proliferation of high-capacity wells are placing increasing demands on available groundwater. “This study seeks to provide sound scientific information to support informed decision-making,” said Parsen.

The cornerstone of this project is a groundwater flow model developed by the WGNHS and USGS collaborators. The model can be used to simulate the flow of groundwater and its connection to surface water. The model can provide water resource managers with a tool to evaluate the impacts of proposed high-capacity wells to nearby streams and wells, to develop wellhead protection plans, to evaluate potential effects of changing land-use on groundwater, and to quantify the relationships between groundwater and surface water. Parsen said, “The results will be of direct value to the public, mine operators, farmers, and local units of government.”

Learn more:
Fact sheet about the study
All project materials (Chippewa County project page)

Active pit of a frac sand mine with a truck for scale

Industrial sand mines such as this use water for washing sand.

Trench and irrigation pipe in a field

Irrigation pipe being laid from a well to a center-pivot irrigation system