Water, Water Everywhere?

March 9, 2010 at 10:49 am 2 comments

As I slogged through the muddy and puddle-strewn Yahara Parkway this morning with my trusty sustainability companion, Pixie the wonderdog, I couldn’t help but think about water. It was seeping into my supposedly waterproof shoes, and spring means several weeks of soggy ground.

So, what’s with water? As with so many sustainability issues, one seemingly simple question makes me realize how little I know. About anything. And everything. Like, for example, where does your water come from, Madison? I mean, we’re surrounded by lakes, so presumably we all know the answer. Except I didn’t. Do you?

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The Nature Conservancy recently posted a nifty interactive feature called, “Where does your water come from?” Unfortunately, Madison isn’t on their map. Can I assume that my water comes from the same place as Green Bay’s or Milwaukee’s?

Which led me to my next resource: Wisconsin’s Water Library. Where I learned that this is Groundwater Awareness Week. What a coincidence, and now we’re all aware, yes? I also found this neat info:

Early French explorers called this area “Ouisconsin,” derived from a Native American word meaning “gathering of the waters.” The state’s liquid assets include more than 32,000 miles of perennial rivers and streams, more than 15,000 lakes, and more than 5 million acres of wetlands.

Well, I’m glad that I picked water to blog about this week. However, helpful and interesting though the site is, it didn’t answer my question.

Thank goodness for the City of Madison Water Utility (a fine organization that just happens to be an EnAct sponsor and on our Board)! They have a great Frequently Asked Questions section where I finally found my answer:

Q: Where does Madison’s water come from?
A: Madison drinking water comes from a deep sandstone aquifer, an underground rock formation where water collects in small spaces among the rocks.  Groundwater originates as rain or snow, soaks into the ground, and is naturally filtered through layers of soil and rock before replenishing the aquifer.  The Madison water system consists of 23 wells, 31 reservoirs, and 840 miles of interconnected pipes.

Gee whiz, I was completely wrong in assuming Madison’s water comes from the Great Lakes. Look for me to investigate water in future posts…because I’m discovering that my understanding of this issue is a little muddy.

Be green. Have fun.



Entry filed under: consequences, sustainability, water. Tags: , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Isabella  |  March 9, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Yay for learning! I remember this question being posed to one of my classes when I was still in school, and most of us didn’t know where our water came from. We soon learned that they came from about 20+ wells tapping into the aquifer below us. But they’re not without problems… some wells have been found to have dangerous chemicals seeping into them and were subsequently closed… which brings us back to the issue of toxic contamination from landfills, chemical factories, etc.

  • 2. Tom Heikkinen  |  March 9, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    At the Madison Water Utility, we mail an annual report on water quality to all addresses in the City. Be on the lookout for it in your mailbox or public library in May — it’s a great source of information for all things related to our water supply here in Madison!!

    And be sure to stop by our Open House at 119 E. Olin avenue on May 8th….


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