on how state manages its water is almost done
Wisconsin State Journal
OF NEWPORT - Hiroshi Kanno and his neighbors east of Wisconsin
Dells are resting a bit easier now that Perrier has dropped
efforts to get permits for pumping and bottling spring water
in Adams County.
was part of a group of residents who spent a good part of
three years fighting the giant water bottler. The controversy
brought the issue of Wisconsin's water - both the management
of its groundwater and protection of its lakes and rivers
- to the headlines.
a year-long effort to study the state's water policies -
which was started largely as a result of the Perrier battle
- is nearing completion, and Kanno and others who fought
the corporation worry recommendations for changes in the
state's laws will not be strong enough.
concerned there might be a lot of compromises made and that
they won't deal with the real issues," said Kanno,
who belongs to a citizen group called Concerned Citizens
of Newport. The million-square foot bottling plant proposed
by Perrier would have been built in the town of Newport.
organizers of the ambitious project, called "Waters
of Wisconsin," said they are optimistic that changes
in how the state takes care of its water will happen in
the wake of a two-day forum that will culminate the effort.
The forum is scheduled for Oct. 21 and 22 at the Monona
Terrace in Madison. Those changes, however, may take time.
is going to be a process," said Michael Strigel, director
of programs for the Wisconsin Academy, Sciences and Letters,
which organized the project and is holding the forum. "And
if we're going to do it right, it will take time. There
will not be a slam dunk."
of at least two reports that will be used to hash out policy
proposals at the forum was released late last week by the
Wisconsin Groundwater Coordinating Council. The report calls
for making a number of changes in the state's water policies,
of who "owns" groundwater.
land use planning and groundwater protection.
a more comprehensive approach to managing groundwater.
water in a way that recognizes connections between groundwater
and surface water.
long-term data on water use.
indentAnders Andren, director
of the Water Resources Institute at UW-Madison and one
of the organizers of Waters of Wisconsin, said he hopes
the project and the forum will be able to come up with
concrete solutions to real problems with the state's
indentOne major problem, Andren
said, is there are currently no laws or policies that
govern who puts wells where or how much water is withdrawn.
It's one of the most important issues that needs to
be dealt with during the forum, he added.
indent"We really have
to pay attention to the way we're drawing down water
levels," Andren said. "I think that's a huge
problem. You have people just sinking wells left, right
and center without an overall plan. We should have much
indentKanno said Perrier opponents
are hoping participants in the forum - including some
of the state's foremost water experts as well as representatives
of citizen groups - will talk about one of the most
glaring loopholes in state water laws. Residents who
fought Perrier, Kanno said, discovered that state laws
do no require the Department of Natural Resources to
consider the impact of a high-capacity well on rural
water resources, such as private wells or wetlands and
indent"Water belongs to
all people," Kanno said. "It doesn't belong
to Perrier. It doesn't belong to an individual farmer."
indentThe report from the Wisconsin
Groundwater Coordinating Council suggests a number of
potential solutions to plugging the loophole, including
expanding the state's authority for considering the
impact of high-capacity wells on non-municipal wells
and water resources such as marshes and other wetlands.
indentStephen Born, a professor
of Urban and Regional Planning at UW-Madison and a co-chairman
of the Waters of Wisconsin project, said that it is
important to consider such specific changes but added
that the proposals have to be made in the context of
a broader look at the state's overall approach to protecting
its water supplies.
indent"I think we can
make recommendations for specific reforms while looking
at the larger game plan," Born said.
indentKanno said that, regardless
of the outcome of the forum, the issue of how we manage
our water is now higher on the list of things the public
indent"There is a groundswell
of concern," Kanno said. "And I think this
is probably a reflection of that. This is going to force
legislators to listen."