Northeastern Wisconsin is home to a growing number of dairy cows. In fact, Kewaunee County is one of the nation's most densely populated dairy areas, with more than 100 cows per square mile.
While the area has many attributes that make it ideal for dairy production, one downfall is the topography, which includes the Niagara Escarpment. This fractured bedrock and shallow soil can, unfortunately, make groundwater more susceptible to contamination.
Water quality has been a longtime concern in the area, particularly in Kewaunee County. For that reason, a group called Peninsula Pride Farms was formed earlier this year. Membership has grown to 40 participants, including dairy farmers of all sizes, crop growers, and dairy-related business representatives from Kewaunee County and neighboring Door County.
The goal of the nonprofit organization is to protect ground and surface water in these two northeastern Wisconsin counties. After a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources-led workgroup encouraged local groups to develop actions to protect well owners, including short-term solutions like providing emergency water supplies to homeowners, Peninsula Pride Farms started its Water Well program.
Water Well will ensure that rural residents at risk of E. coli exposure from contaminated water have access to safe drinking water. The group will pay for bottled water and a well inspection for homeowners and help cover the costs for a water treatment system if necessary. Funds for Water Well will come from Peninsula Pride Farms' membership dues, local business support, and a state grant.
Extensive testing has shown that well contamination comes from a variety of sources beyond agricultural practices, including septic systems and substandard wells. The source of contamination, however, is not a qualification for the Water Well program. The group just wants to be sure local residents have the clean drinking water they expect and deserve.
Providing drinking water when problems arise is one short-term solution. Peninsula Pride Farms will also work with the agricultural community, university researchers, and scientists to look for long-term improvements that will help protect the area's drinking water in the future.