Sustainability 2024: Healthy Waters

What 20 years of data shows and what programs, practices, improvements and continued testing are in place to protect this vital and life-sustaining resource.

Don’t let the heading of this issue mislead you.

It’s more of a mission and vision statement combined, one born in the earliest years of the 21st century.

The seed had been planted well before then that Door County’s beauty may only be skin deep. We had learned about the vulnerability of our geography. “Poison in Paradise,” blared the 1971 Milwaukee Journal headline about contaminated drinking water. 

But early-aughts events acted as a local clarion call. Swimmers became ill from the water. People were sickened by a large septic-system failure. The beach-water monitoring program began. A septic-system survey would follow. Well-testing started.

Door County has now amassed a couple decades worth of programs, practices and data for the earliest of the water-quality programs. We wanted to know what we’ve learned, what we’ve done, what continues to challenge us, how we’ll proceed in the future to protect this vital, life-sustaining resource.

Door County Pulse Podcast · How’s the Health of Door County Water?

In this issue, our staff dives deeply into the numerous ways we keep our groundwater safe, whether it’s the drinking water used by a majority of the peninsula’s residents, or the private onsite wastewater treatment systems so many of us rely upon. We look at the 20 years of data to learn how our beach-water quality has improved, what caused those improvements and what challenges are ahead.

Some contributors have joined us. Bill Berry, a Stevens Point-based journalist and author who’s covered the environment and conservation in northeast Wisconsin for five decades, talks about the efforts being made to help the Great Lakes find balance. Former Pulse reporter Jackson Parr, now working with Wisconsin Sea Grant, explains why more of us should be thinking about rainfall. Our Door to Nature columnist, Charlotte Lukes, reminds us how important wetlands are to wildlife.

What you won’t find here is every threat to every type of water body. Given the enormity of this topic, we trained our focus, zeroing in on the health of groundwater, drinking water and recreational water – the water we need and use everyday; the water that called so many of us to live and visit here.

Our annual Sustainability issue seeks to illuminate topics that are essential to our health and wellness on this peninsula; essential to the health and wellness of this planet. There is no more vital resource than water. We hope you’ll learn in these pages – as we have – what we’re doing to protect ours.

In the 2024 Sustainability Issue

Portrait of a Remediated Beach

Bad Beach Days Aren’t So Bad in Door County

Two Decades of Beach Monitoring

Water on their Minds: Organizations fighting for better water quality

Chasing Away the Birds