The conservation group Wisconsin's Green Fire is hoping the public speaks up at the Joint Committee on Finance meeting Wednesday in Green Bay to discuss water quality, especially how it relates to farming. The committee is gathering testimony across the state.
Wisconsin’s 2018 Water Quality Report to Congress still finds that farming practices are the leading cause of water pollution in Wisconsin.
Governor Tony Evers has declared 2019 as the year of clean drinking water. Green Fire spokesperson Paul LaLiberte says there is some interest in Madison to follow this idea...
"..There seems to be some interest, legislatively, to do something about water quality which is a great thing to see. We want to make sure those legislative efforts don't stop at just dealing with the consequences of water problems. More water treatment for water supplies for example, and make an effort to reduce pollutants at the source...."
They say the rising intensity of both livestock and crop production in Wisconsin has increased soil erosion, polluted runoff to lakes and streams, as well as contaminated groundwater which serves as the drinking water source for two-thirds of the state’s citizens. They say the state's current approach involves incentives to voluntarily reduce pollutants flowing off fields or seeping into groundwater.
LaLiberte says while that has worked in small watersheds but not so where in larger watersheds...
"..Our scientists have looked into some of the specific details on what it would take to do that. Go inside our technical standards for agriculture and how would we need to change them to move in the right direction...."
The Environmental Protection Agency determined that the DNR's review of large farm permits was inadequate due to staff shortages, and compliance with manure management plans could not be assured. More information is at wigreenfire.org