Land Use

A ground water spring emerges from a group of trees at the base of Fredrick' Hill in Middleton, Wisconsin, and flows south through a marsh to Lake Mendota. The marsh is being surrounded on all sides by housing developments. There is concern that paved surfaces and increased ground water pumping will threaten both the spring and the wetland.  Photo: Copyright © Louis Maher 

Land Use

Ensuring enough quality water to support various land uses and economic development can be the driving force toward increased ground water protection efforts at the local level. As uses change from rural to urban or agricultural to suburban lifestyles, we must pay careful attention to how we modify the natural environment. Land use decisions that fail to consider the long-term quality, availability, and susceptibility of ground water resources create conditions that contribute to loss of ground water recharge, overuse of water resources, and human health and ecological impacts resulting from ground water contamination. On the other hand, land-use practices that protect and conserve water resources and maintain or even increase aquifer recharge are key to maintaining long-term water availability and economic vitality.

Land-use planning and development decisions must routinely take into account such factors as the location, quality, yield, vulnerability, and recharge potential of aquifers and the projected availability of water for the long term. To be truly effective, this information must be incorporated into local comprehensive plans and policies. Fortunately, there is a growing body of land-use tools that provide effective ways to protect ground water and the environment, as a whole, and to maintain and improve our quality of life. But it is essential that local decision makers have access to these tools and that they apply them to land-use planning, zoning, and land acquisition decisions. When they do this, they can effectively protect and sustain their local ground water resources.

Why land use matters to ground water...

Each time the use of a land area changes, it can affect the hydrologic makeup of the landscape. Highways, shopping centers, housing developments, industrial sites, businesses, agricultural operations, golf courses, feedlots, waste disposal sites, airports, ski slopes, and sewer systems (to name a few) have the potential to directly or indirectly impact the quantity or quality of both ground water and surface water.


From the Ground Water Report to the Nation

Land Use Planning & Development - Full Chapter