The Stream

Water in Wisconsin's Northwoods and Michigan's Upper Peninsula serves as the basis of life and health. With countless lakes, rivers, springs, and aquifers, water is also linked with the very identity of this region. As a service to our listeners, WXPR is pleased to announce the creation of a new reporting position with a specific focus: water.

What do you wonder about water, water quality and water resources in our region? 

Ask us a water-related question and it could be a future story in our new feature series, The Stream! Use the form below to submit your question.

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Ben Meyer/WXPR

Simple parts of life make Mary Watkins happy.

She kayaks on her lake, hosts football parties, and enjoys time with her yellow lab, Ruby.

“I have a dog.  I like to walk my dog.  I would be afraid to go out there.  You came down that road.  It’s narrow.  I think it would disrupt the quiet.  It would disrupt the whole reason everybody’s here,” Watkins said.

Watkins is talking about a company’s proposal to send three tanker semis daily down the one-lane road to her home on Carlin Lake near Presque Isle in Vilas County.

Michigan.gov

Wisconsin’s neighbor will soon become one of a few states with enforceable PFAS regulations on the books.

Michigan could have strict standards by next April, after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer endorsed a plan from the state’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

They could be enacted by next April.

“We can no longer wait for the federal government to act,” said Whitmer in a statement.

The DNR hoped to get dozens of municipal wastewater treatment plants in the state to test for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) compounds in their water.

But when the DNR’s 90-day window closed this week, just two had responded with test results for the water contaminant.

That may be due, in part, to contradictory guidance from another group.

PFAS, a group of manmade compounds, may be linked to health risks.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Alyssa Ullrich and her husband love life on the water.

“We have the two docks.  Our ski boat goes on this lift, and then we’ve got a fishing boat that goes over on that lift,” she said, standing on her dock on a channel of the Manitowish Chain in Vilas County.

Her nine-month-old boy, Baxter, squirmed in her arms.

For weeks, Ullrich has watched the water level on the ten-lake Manitowish Chain, including her channel between Rest and Stone lakes, go down.

It does every year to protect permanent docks, lifts, and seawalls like hers from ice damage in the winter.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Three Wisconsin agencies want to know how PFAS compounds move and change as they work their way through water treatment systems.

The DNR, State Lab of Hygiene, and UW-Madison plan to kick off a study this fall.

DNR Wastewater Section Chief Jason Knutson said scientists plan to work with a dozen wastewater treatment plants in the state.  They want to learn if most PFAS compounds stick with solids or liquids when treated.

tonyevers.com

When Gov. Tony Evers took office in January, he could have put his priorities in a lot of different places.

But he chose to put a large amount of political muscle into improving drinking water in Wisconsin.

Just 15 days after he was inaugurated in January, he proclaimed 2019 the "Year of Clean Drinking Water” for the state.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Few drivers zipping along Northwoods roads probably think about the culverts they cross, culverts sending stream water underneath the pavement or gravel.

Instead, it’s Jon Simonsen’s job to worry about the structures, which play a major role in both transportation and fish habitat.

“People don’t give a culvert much thought, and they’ll pass over it.  But they think about it a lot when the road is washed out and the road has failed,” said Simonsen, a DNR transportation liaison.  “So that’s when it has become significant.”

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Shanai Matteson poured three small cups of water for Mary Moxon last Friday, putting them on a wooden board, like a flight of beers at a craft brewery.

“It’s very subtle, but water has different tastes, and it has to do with the mineral content of the water, the treatment of the water,” Matteson said.  “Sometimes it has to do with the pipes or the container that the water comes in.”

Matteson had just set up her table, called a popup Water Bar, at Project North, a music and sustainability festival in Rhinelander.

Jim Albert

Twenty-one-year-old Kai Movrich has enough to worry about.

On top of working at Contrast Coffee in downtown Ironwood, she owns and is an instructor at a dance studio in town.

She didn’t need her tap water at home to be a problem, too.  But she found something gross when she moved into a new house in July.

“Through our faucet in our bathroom, when we turned the spouts on as soon as they turned our water on, we actually had sediment coming through our spouts,” Movrich said.  “We’re talking rocks the size of nickels.”

Her frustration isn’t unique.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Ron Wiedeman’s ancestors came here around 1900, as best as he can tell.

It’s a swath of land along the Wisconsin River in the Town of Crescent, just southwest of Rhinelander.

“I’ve lived in this area my whole life,” said Wiedeman, sitting at his kitchen table.

When he was a kid, the spring now known as Crescent Spring was on his family’s property.

“Just clean, fresh water, always clean, and good tasting water,” Wiedeman said.  “I’ve [drunken] out of there since I was probably eight years old.”

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Pete McGeshick III sometimes has a hard time explaining what being on a wild rice bed feels like for him.

As he used a 16-foot pole to push a canoe across Rice Lake on the Sokaogon Chippewa reservation in Forest County, he said he feels the spirit of wild rice while on the water.

“It talks to me.  It’s something you feel in your heart.  You can’t describe it,” McGeshick said.  “All you can do is feel it.”

Water in the Wisconsin's Northwoods and Michigan's Upper Peninsula serves as the basis of life and health.  With countless lakes, rivers, springs, and aquifers, water is also linked with the very identity of the region.  As a service to its listeners, WXPR is pleased to announce the creation of a new reporting position with a specific focus:  water.

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