Program and People News

New Studies Aim to Protect and Better Manage Wisconsin’s Water Wealth

Three new groundwater research projects funded by the University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute (WRI) started in July.

  • Throughout the north-central United States, including 95 public water systems in Wisconsin, people rely on the Midwestern, Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer system for drinking water. It is a system that is contaminated, to various degrees, by the carcinogen radium. The source of radium in any given location is unknown, so avoiding it is difficult. Researchers are working to develop a relationship between sediment and aquifer geochemistry and the concentration of radium in groundwater.
  • The bacterial community within a water system typically fulfills many functions, including naturally remediating contaminants and mobilizing heavy metals. Researchers will use a well field near the upper Fox River in Waukesha, Wis., to assess the effect, if any, of added nutrients on a water system’s bacterial community. The study will offer insight not only on the physical dynamics of a water system but also the changing dynamics around septic systems, heavily fertilized farm fields, confined animal feeding operations and naturally remediated cleanup sites. This will also shed light on the fate and transport of pharmaceuticals.
  • Additions of nitrates-nitrogen could enhance the concentrations of uranium in the groundwater of some central and northeastern Wisconsin communities. Researchers will sample wells in Portage, Marathon and Shawano counties to track changes in uranium levels when nitrates-nitrogen is added. Uranium is a naturally occurring element that is also a carcinogen, affecting mainly the kidneys.

The Aquatic Sciences Center is the administrative home of the
University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute & University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute.

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