Government geologists will join Chippewa County officials and members of the frac sand industry in Chippewa Falls, Wisc.,today to kick off a five-year study of water quantity issues in an area of greatly expanded frac sand operations.

Mike Parsen, a Wisconsin state hydrogeologist, said the $500,000 to $600,000 study will focus on high-capacity withdrawal of groundwater needed for sand processing. The study also will look at the impact that widespread removal of sand is having on the recharging of aquifers.

The groundwater resources within western Chippewa County are the target, but scientific lessons might be applicable in other areas of intensive frac sand mining and processing.

Parsen said water quality issues, including possible impacts from chemicals used in processing frac sand, aren't included.

A central question will be: How will changes in recharge and water use impact groundwater supplies that support streams and rivers? Use of groundwater for farm irrigation is part of the study.

Parsen said data from mining companies will be used, but researchers also will conduct their own stream flow measurements and other information.

Partners in the study include the Chippewa County Department of Land Conservation and Forest Management, the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Photo courtesy Chippewa County