As a result of the 2019 declaration of “The Year of Clean Drinking Water” from Governor Evers, there are legislative changes being proposed to protect Wisconsin’s groundwater.

Senate Bill 723 and Assembly Bill 790 will make great strides toward protecting water quality because they will restore funding to county conservation departments.

Douglas County Land and Water Conservation Department monitors groundwater quality by providing cost assistance to landowners to test their wells. This service is funded by Douglas County and performed by staff. Current state funding levels for county conservation staffing are roughly 30% less than they were in 1997, and are now over $3 million short of targeted base-level funding, as defined in Wis. State Statutes Chapter 92.

SB 723/AB 790 brings us closer to base-level funding ($12.8 million, as of 2020). Full funding is the first step to taking statewide actions to improve groundwater challenges.

In addition to collecting valuable information about groundwater quality, the conservation department works with private landowners to implement practices that protect water quality and soil health. Examples of this include working with farmers on nutrient planning and protecting sensitive areas from shoreline erosion.

It is critical that we provide sustained support for county conservation staff. These professionals work with farmers and landowners to help them meet management goals for their properties or businesses, while meeting basic conservation standards at the same time. They spend years building relationships with their clients, just as a doctor or financial advisor would.

The return on investment for county conservation departments is high — not only do they provide valuable, cost-effective services for their local communities, but they also multiply the impact of state funding several times over, by leveraging federal and private grant dollars.

This puts more conservation on the land, and brings dollars into local economies at the same time. To express your support of county land conservation departments, please contact your local legislator and ask them to support SB 723 and AB 790.

Sue Hendrickson

Supervisor District 15 Chair

Douglas County Land Conservation

Extension, Education and Recycling