Recycling ground water in Waushara County, Wisconsin : resource management for cold-water fish hatcheries

Water-Resources Investigations Report 76-20

Prepared in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources



Recycling water within the local ground-water system can increase the quantity of water available for use, control or avoid environmental pollution, and control temperature of the water supply. Pumped ground water supplied a fish-rearing facility for 15 months, and the waste water recharged the local ground-water system through an infiltration pond. Eighty-three percent of the recharged water returned to the well (recycled). Make-up water from the ground-water system provided the remaining 17 percent.

Pumping 300 gallons per minute (20 litres per second), combined with recycling, resulted in water-level declines equivalent to a pumping rate of approximately 50 gallons per minute (3 litres per second). Using this effective pumping rate in the Theis nonequilibrium equation resulted in predicted drawdowns within 0.5 foot (0.2 metres) of those observed throughout the 15-month period.

The concentration of nitrate in the water supply increased only slightly during the 15 months of recycling. Nitrate levels in a closed recycling system (100 percent recycling efficiency) would have reached 9 milligrams per litre, but observed levels did not exceed 4 milligrams per litre, and at the end of the recycling period they were lower than the initial levels. Mass-balance equations relate observed nitrate levels to the loading imposed on the system, the pumping rate, the volume of ground water affected by recycling, and the recycling efficiency. The equations predict nitrate concentrations (or other ions not attenuated by movement through the unsaturated part of the aquifer) within 1 milligram per litre of observed concentrations except during periods when nutrients are used in plant growth. The method does not account for nutrients utilized by aquatic vegetation in the infiltration pond, so that observed levels would usually be even lower than predicted. The predicted response of the local groundwater system to a nutrient loading equivalent to that generated by a hatchery producing approximately 100,000 pounds (50,000 kilograms) of trout and salmon per year indicates that maximum nitrate levels would remain significantly below the limit established by the State of Wisconsin (and the U.S. Public Health Service, 1962) for drinking water.

The water-supply temperature can be maintained within the optimum range for trout and salmon rearing (10.0° to 15.5°C or 50° to 60°F) during recycling. Continuous recycling during the study period resulted in watersupply temperatures ranging between 7.0° and 14.0°C (45° and 57°F). Longterm continuous recycling would result in water-supply temperatures ranging between 7.0° and 14.5°C (45° and 58°F). Selective recycling (recycling water for only 8 months of the year) would provide water-supply temperatures ranging from 9.5° to 15.5°C (49° to 60°F).

A permanent recharge pond with supplementary ponds would fulfill the needs of a hatchery development at the Greenwood Wildlife Refuge site, Waushara County, Wisconsin, and insure protection of the ground-water system. Eighty percent or more of the water pumped could be recycled by recharging waste water near the supply well. Selective recycling (recharging water to the ground-water system outside the zone of recycling during approximately 4 months of each year) could maintain optimum water-supply temperatures, reduce water-level declines by 50 percent (compared to no recycling), maintain nitrate levels in the water supply below limits established for drinking water supplies, and minimize the effect of water-supply development on the regional ground-water system.

Other recharge-recycling schemes can also be evaluated. Estimating the recycling efficiency (of recharge ponds, trenches, spreading areas, or irrigated fields) provides a basis for predicting water-level declines, the concentration of conservative ions (conservative in the sense that no reaction other than mixing occurs to change the character of the ion being considered) in the water supply and in the regional ground-water system, and the temperature of the water supply. Hatchery development and management schemes can be chosen to optimize hatchery productivity or minimize operation costs while protecting the ground-water system.

Study Area

Additional publication details

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USGS Numbered Series
Recycling ground water in Waushara County, Wisconsin : resource management for cold-water fish hatcheries
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
Wisconsin Water Science Center
vi, 60 p.
Waushara County
Waushara County
Other Geospatial:
Greenwood Wildlife Refuge
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