The U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center is hosting the upcoming webinar talk:
Cows, people, and groundwater quality
Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 3 p.m.
Dr. Mark Borchardt, Microbiologist
646-828-7666; ID: 161 4139 6271
Wells that supply drinking water to rural households are subject to the principle of “tragedy of an open access resource”. A household owns and maintains the well infrastructure, but they do not own the groundwater or control its quality as this resource has “open access”. This problem and the tensions it can bring are apparent in several regions of Wisconsin where agricultural production and exurban development are juxtaposed. Our research team investigated well water quality of rural households in two studies, one in the northeast and the other in southwest Wisconsin (aka the SWIGG Study). We assessed the extent of well contamination by nitrate and conventional microbial indicators of water sanitary quality. Detection of specific microbes found only in human wastewater or livestock manure allowed us to determine sources of fecal contamination. Lastly, we combined Geographic Information System (GIS) data with statistical modeling to identify risk factors for well contamination, for example, the proximity of manure storage. Understanding the “what, where, and how” of rural well contamination in Wisconsin presents opportunities for improving groundwater quality to the benefit of farmers and rural households alike.