Posts tagged ‘groundwater’

Water, Water Everywhere?

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?

Copyright ibm4381

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.



March 9, 2010 at 10:49 am 2 comments

Environmental Health Report Card gives mixed grades

This university town is probably full of “A” students. But we’ve learned that we still have a ways to go to get a better GPA on our environmental health in Dane County.

Every two years the Madison and Dane County Environmental Health Report Card is issued, telling us where we’ve improved and where we have regressed in terms of our air and water quality, recycling, alternative energy, and vehicle travel.

The bad news first: water quality and water conservation have both declined. That means more phosphorus in our lovely lakes and more beach closures, and lower groundwater levels. FYI: Groundwater provides 70% of Wisconsin residents with water.

The bad news second: And, while there was a small increase in recycled material, there was also an increase in the amount of waste produced and sent to the landfill.

The great news: Don’t despair! There is a LOT we can do to make this better.

The also great news: EnAct offers loads of tips that people can use to reduce their water use and their waste production. Our “EnAct: Steps to Greener Living” book offers chapters on saving water and wasting less that you can download here to take action in your own home. Or start an EnAct team with your neighbors or friends and talk about why this stuff matters right here in our backyard!

Want to do something right now? Here are a few ideas:


  • Only run full loads in your washing machine and dishwasher, and use them in off-peak times (middle of the day or after 7 p.m.)
  • Don’t flush medicines or over-the-counter drugs down your drain OR throw them in your garbage. Check with your doctor’s office or pharmacy about medical waste drop-off days.
  • Try using non-toxic alternatives to household chemical cleaners. Commit to trying one new natural product this month. And a second one next month. And so on…
  • Install a faucet aerator in your kitchen; they cost about $1 and can save 3 gallons of water per day per faucet.
  • Keep your leaves out of the gutters and out of the lakes. Use them as mulch on your flowerbeds.


  • If you are not curbside recycling everything you can, start now! Here’s a list of what is recyclable in Madison.
  • Remove your name from junkmail lists at
  • Donate or sell items rather than throwing them away. Try Goodwill, St. Vincent DePaul Thrift Stores, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, or Freecycle.
  • Buy at least one post-consumer recycled-content product that you use on a regular basis, like office paper, or that’s a one-time purchase, like fleece clothing made from recycled soda bottles and other plastics.
  • Buy and manage the food in your house to reduce spoilage and waste and to save money. Try not to buy more food than you are certain you family can eat before it goes bad.
  • Try composting. It’s a lot easier than it sounds.
  • When eating out, bring a reusable container for your leftovers rather. Trust me, no one minds if you do this (even my husband realized it was silly to be embarrassed when I whip my trusty Tupperware out of my purse)!

So we got a few Bs and Cs. That’s okay. We can still make the next report card something we’d be proud to show to our grandchildren.

Be green. Have fun.


December 1, 2009 at 10:08 am 1 comment

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