The challenge of water management

Circular 414-B




In a sandy, riverside location in Wisconsin my family has a farm, once abandoned by a previous owner because it would not produce much corn. By the time we bought it for a pittance, only a few remnants of white pine remained from the magnificent stands made famous by Paul Bunyan. The variability of the glacial topography had resulted in an interesting mixture of prairie marsh, swamp woodlot, and sandhill.

We did not acquire this farm because it had a great potential for growing crops. Rather we were interested in the variety of ecologic and topographic types which, even within the confines of our property, represented a condensed version of many different types of land in the Wisconsin countryside. It has also a very peculiar esthetic and historical interest. Marquette's canoes slipped quietly past our favorite fishing hole on the river. Passenger pigeons had once roosted in our great oaks. The few remaining white pines silhouetted against the sky-glow of evening made one think of the Round River and the Blue Ox.

All right, we had acquired this place. What were we to do with it. Its resources were narrowly limited and peculiar. They had little economic value. All the more reason that they should be appraised in order that they be fully utilized and appreciated. So, while we were hammering and sawing the old stable into a useable homestead, we walked, sat, dug, and pruned in every coulee and covert, in every thicket and thatch. By compass and pace we mapped the boundaries, the vegetation, and sketched in the topography with notes on the distribution of soil and the occurrence of water. We counted the various kinds of birds and found there was a reasonable population of woods species, mostly transients. There were no pheasant, no quail, practically no grouse, and in spring only an occasional woodcock.

In conjunction with the analysis of what we had to work with we started immediately on the task of development. The techniques were chosen with an eye to specific goals. We wanted, over a long period of time, to grow a stand of conifers which would yield both pleasure to the eye and logs to the saw. We could see the possibilities of having quail, pheasants, grouse, and deer, and of extending the stay of some of the migrant species.

So we set to work with shovel and axe, wire and nails, and a will to succeed. Trees were lopped so that they formed brush piles. Wild grapes were brought in and planted on the brush piles. Grass was removed with a shovel where it was competing with desirable wild flowers. Little patches of corn and beans were planted to provide proper combinations of food and cover.

Within few years we had pheasants, grouse, and woodcock to shoot, wild flowers to delight the eye and the nose, and the annual increments on the stem of every pine were future increments of dollars in the bank.

The problem of appraisal, development, and management are similar, whatever the nature of the resource. Resources may be renewable or nonrenewable. With renewable resources our problem is to increase, insofar as possible, the take from each increment. With nonrenewable resources the problem is to develop in an orderly manner without waste.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
The challenge of water management
Series title:
Series number:
Year Published:
U.s. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Washington, D.C.
7 p.
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Public Comments:
Presented before the 50th anniversary meeting, Illinois section of American Waterworks Association, Chicago, III., March 11, 1959
Conference Title:
50th anniversary meeting, Illinois section of American Waterworks Association
Conference Location:
Chicago, II
Conference Date:
March 11, 1959