The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF) of northern Wisconsin is home to abundant springs, streams, and lakes. However, there was little information available on these water resources. Anna Fehling, a hydrogeologist at the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey (WGNHS), is part of a team that has completed a multi-year study of groundwater in the CNNF. The study furthers the understanding of groundwater in northern Wisconsin and helps 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.”
Fehling and others built on the work at the WGNHS to develop comprehensive hydrogeology reports and databases. The study helps 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 worked with the U.S. Geological Survey to build computer models to simulate the groundwater system. The models created water-table maps showing the sources and sinks of groundwater. They 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 models and data are the building blocks for future studies in northern Wisconsin.
Counties: Ashland, Bayfield, Florence, Forest, Langlade, Oconto, Oneida, Price, Sawyer, Taylor, Vilas
Forest units: Medford, Nicolet, Park Falls, Washburn/Great Divide