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Wood County Water Quality

Source: Melissa Kaye

Wood County Water Quality

Water quality is a hot topic in the news recently. Jen McNelly sits down with James on WFHR to talk about her work with UW-Extension.

May 21, 2024 5:17 PM CDT

By: Melissa Kaye

Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. (WFHR, WIRI) – We are blessed with an abundance of water in Wisconsin. Water quality has become a common topic more so than ever before. Jen McNelly is the Natural Resources Groundwater Educator with UW-Madison Division Extension. She started with Extension in February after having worked in Portage County for nine years as the County Water Resource Specialist. Water science, in the grand scheme of things, is a relatively new science.  Jen said a huge shift happened when Governor Evers declared this the year of clean drinking water. This kicked off the ability to have more conversations around clean water. Many different groups are involved now and working on the issue from different perspectives.

Easier now to talk about water

Where does our water come from?

Groundwater and surface water are interconnected. Jen said whatever is impacting our groundwater is also impacting our surface water. Groundwater moves and discharges into the lowest spots. This includes lakes, rivers, and streams. While they may be referred to as groundwater and surface water, it’s really one resource.

It’s one resource

Everyone in Wood County gets their drinking water from groundwater. This includes people living in cities and municipalities with water services and people living in the country. The groundwater is pumped to municipal water services, put through treatment, then pumped to homes. Private residences with private wells in the country are doing the same thing, just on a smaller scale.

Wood County residents drink groundwater

Know what’s in your water

People living in municipalities are fortunate in that the water quality is monitored for you. Municipalities must test periodically to be sure the water meets state standards. People with private wells are responsible for their own water quality. Contaminants that affect your water quality, such as bacteria and nitrates, have no smell or taste. The only way to tell is to test your water. Jen said, there are some people who don’t want to know what’s in their well because they’re afraid of the consequences. She said there’s no requirement to do anything after the test is completed. The decision on what to do next is completely up to you, but you should know what you’re consuming and how that may affect your health in the long run.

Know what’s in your water

Where to test your water

Jen said you should always utilize a state certified lab when testing your water. We have several labs in central Wisconsin that are state certified. You can have water tested at the Wood County Water Laboratory. They’re certified to test for nitrate and bacteria. These are the two biggest contaminants you’ll want to test for every year. If you want more thorough testing, you can utilize the UW-Stevens Point Water and Environmental Analysis Lab. Most labs require that you use a specific test kit. It’s possible to have the kit mailed to you to make the water quality testing process easier.

Where to test your water

Link for the full interview

You can listen to the full interview with Jen McNelly and James Malouf on Mid-day Magazine here. The interview took place on May 9, 2024.

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