Friday, February 15, 2013

Where is our Water Going?

Information about water withdrawals-when someone takes surface water (lakes, rivers, etc.) or groundwater (aquifers, wells) and uses it so it is no longer available for others- in Wisconsin for 2011 is now posted to the DNR website.  Even if you’re not someone who gets excited about water information regularly, it is pretty interesting. 

The report breaks down the withdrawals by sector, by month, and by source.  1.9 TRILLION gallons of surface water were withdrawn in 2011, while 213 billion gallons of groundwater were withdrawn (that's a lot of water!).  Power generation was the biggest user of surface water (84.6% of withdrawals).  Water is used in power generation to cool down equipment.  It was interesting to me that another use that came up was cranberry production at 2.2% of surface water.  I had no idea Wisconsin had such a large cranberry industry (see more information here).  It is especially exciting that Wisconsin cranberry growers and the NRCS have been working to conserve water; it would be great to see their percentage and the total amount of water withdrawals decrease! Municipal water suppliers and paper producers took more surface water than cranberry growers, but that was not nearly as surprising to me.

As for groundwater, municipal water supplies were the biggest withdrawal with 42%.  Agricultural irrigation also accounted for a large chunk of withdrawals.

The report details the basin where the water withdrawals came from as well….Lake Michigan's basin had the most withdrawals by far, with the Mississippi River basin coming in second.  Lake Superior basin withdrawals were actually very, very small in comparison.  However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t conserve water up here in Superior! With the Great Lakes at low levels (Lake Michigan and Huron are at all-time lows), now is a great time to think about water conservation.  We did a post previously (see here) with some tips about water conservation.  As we near gardening season, consider purchasing a rain barrel either from our pre-order sale or WLSSD/RSPT’s truckload sale.  March 18th- 24th is Fix a Leak Week; go through your home and repair leaks that waste water and cost you money.  Having a huge lake just outside our doors should only make us want to conserve water more. 


Check out the DNR report here.

-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

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