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Researchers studying nutrient, storm water runoff in Green Bay

UWGB professor says the city has received three years of rain in two years
Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 3:30 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Researchers say two consecutive years of record rainfall in Northeast Wisconsin have shed light on the impact to both rural and urban landscapes.

Water monitoring stations on local creeks are playing an important role in gathering data.

Considering the Green Bay area receives, on average, around 30 inches of rain a year, the last two years have been eye-opening for researchers like University of Wisconsin-Green Bay environmental science professor Kevin Fermanich.

"From July 1st of 2018 to right now, June 29th of 2020, so basically two years, we've had 89 inches of rain, so typically that would be 60 inches of rain or 59 inches of rain, so we've basically received three years worth of rainfall in a two year period," says Fermanich.

And all that rain is impacting nearly everyone in some way.

"Our infrastructure for handling storm water runoff in our urban areas, our roads, our streets, our parking lots, our rooftops, that's one issue, but then also out on the landscape, obviously rural areas, the agriculture and so on which makes up most of our landscape is feeling the impacts of all this rain," says Fermanich.

Because water seeps or flows downhill, Fermanich says water monitoring stations, like the one located at Wequiock Creek, provide valuable data.

"They tell us how much water comes off the landscape, and at what rate, how high the peaks are and then we also have instruments in the water that allows us to determine how much sediment is being carried off the landscape, so how turbid the water is or how many nutrients are lost from the landscape and getting into our lakes," says Fermanich.

Fermanich credits regional efforts in recent years to reduce nutrient runoff for coming in just the nick of time.

"Without having at least some of the practices where we're planting cover crops, we're tilling less, we're putting contour strips out on the landscape, things would've been much worse if we hadn't been doing better management practices," says Fermanich.

As for the future, Fermanich says expect more of the same.

"What does the landscape need to look like to be resilient to these large rain storms, it's the reality we're seeing now and it's what we expect to see in the future, across the system, whether it's in our urban areas, our suburban areas or in the rural areas," says Fermanich.

Fermanich adds that climate change projections point to higher precipitation in the years to come, especially during winter and spring.

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