Recently, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on a case that pitted citizens near Lake Beulah against the Department of Natural Resources. The case will have wide ripple effects.
Residents were concerned that a new high capacity groundwater well would cause water levels to drop on the lake, and property values to follow. The DNR had issued a permit without having studied the environmental impacts sufficiently, according to the petitioners.
The court’s ruling found:
- “The DNR has the authority and a general duty to consider potential environmental harm to waters of the state when reviewing a high capacity well permit.”
- The DNR is not required “to investigate the potential environmental harm of every high capacity well application …”
- … however, “the DNR is required to consider the environmental impact … … when presented with sufficient concrete, scientific evidence”
- “Citizens must present any evidence of potential harm to the [DNR] before the [permit] decision is made, or risk losing the ability to challenge the DNR’s discretionary decision.”
So the DNR has to act with citizens in mind, protecting the public trust through well permitting approvals and enforcement, but citizens must act too. Discussions of natural resource protections are, indeed, community wide, so some of the facts must come from residential well-owners. This has practical merit, since citizens bear many of the costs and consequences of the DNR’s decisions. Lacking simple tools, however, it’s hard for people to do, so it almost never happens. Finally, with shrinking public budgets and fewer agency resources, future data collection and analysis to inform development decisions will fall to citizens more often than not.
Our market research finds that in the US alone, homeowners and farmers who depend on groundwater pay upwards of $1.2 billion dollars a year to keep water flowing from their own wells, even as large consumers like cities are tapping the same groundwater and perhaps causing aquifers to shrink.
In order to defend their water and their property values, homeowners will need information and they’ll have to share it to support the science.
But how will homeowners with wells participate in scientific environmental impact studies? The key is cost and simplicity.
Wellntel has a team of scientists and technologists working on the problem. We have filed patents on new technology that will inexpensively collect information about groundwater and help citizens to share what they know with agencies like the DNR. This will help the DNR to better understand the environmental impact of their decisions, and support future decisions with ample facts.
Well owners and water well contractors can use Wellntel’s low cost sensors to monitoring the health of the water supply and take preventive steps to avoid expensive well failures. As importantly, with insights into groundwater health and trends in their neighborhoods, they’ll become key stakeholders, along with the DNR, in protecting Wisconsin’s water.
Wellntel sees a future, just a few years from now, where agencies with large responsibilities to ensure the public trust cooperate with the public to gather information to improve their work and make Wisconsin a better place.
Copyright 2013 Wellntel, Inc. All rights reserved.