How do you understand the groundwater resources of a vast, uninhabited part of the state? That is the question researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey are trying to answer in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest to aid the US Forest Service. The Forest contains more than 1.5 million acres including over 600 lakes, 2,000 miles of streams, and 347,000 acres of wetlands. It does not contain many wells, however, and wells are windows into the underlying groundwater.
One researcher at the Survey, geographic information specialist Steve Mauel, is deep in the data of this project. He has created a database that, for the first time, pulls together over 75, 000 records from municipal wells, private water supply wells, mineral exploration data, spring locations, streamflow measurements, geologic maps, previous studies, and related information.
Mauel uses well construction records from public and private water wells from inside and outside of the forest. He adds in other data from WGNHS files and reports – published and unpublished. Combining data from all these sources lets Steve build the full story of the geology and groundwater within the forest.
Steve Mauel manages and integrates a variety of data from many different sources to produce maps that are truly geographic information systems – GIS. Survey hydrogeologists can use those maps to create a baseline understanding of the groundwater resources in the forest.
Ken Bradbury, the head of the Survey’s Hydrogeology Group, says, “Results of this work will be used by Forest managers and others to make decisions about resources in the forest affected by groundwater.”