Great Lakes Wisconsin Water

Great Lakes Communities and Ecosystems at RiskThe Region 

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Climate Change in Wisconsin
Leopard Frog
Climate Projections
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Human Health
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Property and Infrastructure
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Water Supply & Pollution
Wetlands & Shorebirds
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Resources & Links

Climate Change Impacts:
Water Supply and Pollution

Wisconsin depends heavily on groundwater, fresh water from Lakes Michigan and Superior, and on rainfall for agriculture, drinking, and industrial uses. As the state's population grows to six million by 2025, pressures on water resources will continue to increase.

As climate change takes effect, projected changes in rainfall, evaporation, and groundwater recharge rates will affect all freshwater users. Among the potential impacts of climate change with implications for water supply and pollution levels in Wisconsin are:

  • A Reduction in Groundwater Recharge
    Warmer temperatures and increased evaporation are anticipated to cause small streams to dry up, as well as reduce the area of wetlands, resulting in poorer water quality and less habitat for wildlife.

  • A Decrease in Lake Levels
    Changes in the precipitation cycle and seasonal temperatures will affect lake levels. Overall, increasing temperatures will lead to a decline in ice cover and a greater rate of evaporation, causing lake levels to decline. As lake levels drop, costs to shipping on the Great Lakes are likely to increase, along with costs of dredging harbors and channels and of adjusting docks, water intake pipes, and other infrastructure.

  • An Increase in Extraction Pressure
    With growing populations and projected drops in lake and ground water levels, climate change is expected to exacerbate an already contentious debate on water withdrawals from the Great Lakes. Conflicts may intensify as water shortages develop and pressure increases for more water for irrigation, drinking, and other human uses.

  • A Degradation of Wetlands' Flood-Absorbing Capacity
    Development and climate change will degrade the natural flood-absorbing capacities of wetlands and floodplains. More run-off in winter and spring from rain-on-snow events and in summer from intense downpours, cause increased flooding and erosion. These events in turn could increase pollution in lakes, rivers, and streams from municipal and farm run-off, which often enters surface waters untreated. Periodic droughts also concentrate sulfates and acids, and, when flushed into lakes during intense rains, increase acid stress in aquatic systems.

Photo Credits:
Leopard Frog -- John Maguson.
Lake Crivitz, WI -- Courtesy of Wisconsin DNR.

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We can reduce global warming emissions and ensure communities have the resources they need to withstand the effects of climate change—but not without you. Your generous support helps develop science-based solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.