Water war pits Wisconsin farms against fish
PLAINFIELD — Long Lake has lost its shoreline. Dock after dock dead-ends in the weeds. This small lake in the Central Sands of Wisconsin looks more like an unmowed lawn with a pond in the middle than a place where families used to water ski and fish. The lake used to be up to 12 feet deep. Now it is closer to 3 feet.
“Long Lake was once a trophy bass lake. So when we moved here, in the first two years, my boys were catching bass like crazy,” said Brian Wolf, who owns a cabin on Long Lake. “It was like catching fish in a barrel as the water declined.”
In 2006, the lake dried up completely and all the fish, including 3-foot-long northern pikes, died in the mud. Homeowners like Wolf lost their lake and more than half their property values.
Across central Wisconsin, in a region known as the Central Sands, residents have watched water levels in lakes and small streams drop for years.
In a state with about 15,000 lakes and more than a quadrillion gallons of groundwater, it is hard to believe that water could ever be in short supply. Experts say, however, that the burgeoning number of so-called high-capacity wells is drawing down some ground and surface water, including at Long Lake.
- Sidebar: Saving the ‘endangered’ Little Plover River
- Podcast: Are the trout doomed? On the groundwater beat Kate Prengaman and Kate Golden chat about reporting this story.
- On the radio: Wisconsin Public Radio’s Terry Bell interviews Kate Prengaman for Morning Edition, July 22, 2013.
- On TV: Wisconsin Public Television’s Frederica Freyberg talks with hydrogeologist George Kraft on Here and Now about the issue. July 19, 2013.
Water Watch Wisconsin
This story is part of Water Watch Wisconsin, in which the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television are examining the quality and supply of Wisconsin’s water. Story ideas? Email email@example.com.
This reporting was supported by The Joyce Foundation.
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