Lakes in Wisconsin's Central Sands region are going dry, and people are pointing fingers at farmers, blaming them for overpumping.
But the problem may not be that simple, say University of Wisconsin researchers who are looking into the problem.
The area's climate may have changed in such a way that the atmosphere is taking more water away from the system.
The university has launched the Central Sands Water Initiative to bring together stakeholders, including the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association, to study the affects of pumping on the region's ground and surface waters, according to an article in the university's Grow magazine.
At the same time, the group will search for solutions to help refill the dry lakes and streams.
Brokering a solution isn't typical for College of Agricultural and Life Sciences researchers.
Peter Nowak, a rural sociologist and emeritus professor at the university's Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, was tapped for the job because of his success in the late 1990s with the Wisconsin Buffer Initiative.
The initiative brought farmers and environmentalists together to address the problem of agricultural runoff in the state's waterways.
“The beginning of the process is just getting everybody to talk,” Nowak said in the article, adding he expects the new initiative to be an even bigger challenge. “This is a hot situation. This is what social scientists would call rancorous conflict.”