PLAINFIELD — Long Lake has lost its shoreline. Dock after dock dead-ends in the weeds. This small lake in the Central Sands of Wisconsin looks more like an unmowed lawn with a pond in the middle than a place where families used to water ski and fish. The lake used to be up to 12 feet deep. Now it is closer to 3 feet.
“Long Lake was once a trophy bass lake. So when we moved here, in the first two years, my boys were catching bass like crazy,” said Brian Wolf, who owns a cabin on Long Lake. “It was like catching fish in a barrel as the water declined.”
In 2006, the lake dried up completely and all the fish, including 3-foot-long northern pikes, died in the mud. Homeowners like Wolf lost their lake and more than half their property values.
Across central Wisconsin, in a region known as the Central Sands, residents have watched water levels in lakes and small streams drop for years.
In a state with about 15,000 lakes and more than a quadrillion gallons of groundwater, it is hard to believe that water could ever be in short supply. Experts say, however, that the burgeoning number of so-called high-capacity wells is drawing down some ground and surface water, including at Long Lake.
- Sidebar: Saving the ‘endangered’ Little Plover River
- Podcast: Are the trout doomed? On the groundwater beat Kate Prengaman and Kate Golden chat about reporting this story.
- On the radio: Wisconsin Public Radio’s Terry Bell interviews Kate Prengaman for Morning Edition, July 22, 2013.
- On TV: Wisconsin Public Television’s Frederica Freyberg talks with hydrogeologist George Kraft on Here and Now about the issue. July 19, 2013.