Portage County has abundant water resource that include surface water features (numerous lakes, miles of streams and rivers, and wetlands) and groundwater. Groundwater is the water that fills the spaces and pores of unconsolidated materials such as sand, silt, and clay, and fractures in the bedrock.
Groundwater does not remain stagnant but rather moves downward through the spaces, pores and fractures under the influence of gravity; that is, it moves from higher to lower elevations. Groundwater movement can be determined by measuring the difference in elevation between two areas. Groundwater moves from high elevations to low elevations, where it discharges to streams, lakes and wetlands. Once groundwater is discharged to these areas, it is referred to as surface water. Surface water in Portage County is where the water table intersects the lands surface, thus making groundwater and surface water directly connected to one another. The cycle of precipitation, groundwater recharge and discharge to surface waters is a balanced natural system. During drier years, less recharge occurs and water levels and stream levels decline. During wet years, recharge is greater and levels and stream flows can increase. Water usage and pumping can also influence this system.
Picture courtesy of the Groundwater Foundation
These water resources are essential to support the daily living needs of all Portage County residents, a thriving commercial, agricultural, and industrial economy, the quality of life in rural communities, and recreational opportunities. The groundwater resource supports 100% of domestic water use, 87% of irrigation water, and 68% of industrial water use in Portage County (Data from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources).
Since water resources, especially groundwater, are such an integral part of Portage County, the County created an official forum within Portage County government for discussion of topics and issues related to groundwater resources known as the Portage County Groundwater Citizens Advisory Committee (GCAC). GCAC, made up of a volunteer citizen representative from each municipality in the County, is a recommending and advisory Committee to the Portage County Board and its Committee’s. To learn more about GCAC and the representatives that serve, please click here.
One of GCAC’s largest jobs is to oversee the drafting and implementation of the Portage County Groundwater Management Plan. To learn more about the 2017 Portage County Groundwater Management Plan please click here.
To learn more about the different aspects of groundwater in Portage County please visit and explore the following resource pages:
General Groundwater Informational Resources
Monitoring Nitrate Screenings
Recent Projects Water Testing Information
Well Construction Information Wellhead Protection
Water Resources Staff:
Jen McNelly, Water Resource Specialist