Water Quality and Landowner Liability

How can landowners protect their wells and avoid civil and/or code liability, especially when they rent land to other users? Door Property Owners, Inc. is sponsoring a forum on this issue. The forum is open to all and takes place on June 20 at 10 am at the Bertschinger Community Center in Egg Harbor. The meeting will be preceded with coffee and rolls at 9:30 am.

Landowners lease much of peninsula’s agricultural land to farmer-operators. Few realize that the owners bear primary responsibility for conservation practices, erosion control, nutrient management and groundwater. In Door County, where just a thin layer of soil sits atop fractured bedrock, liquid animal waste quickly reaches the groundwater, where it can easily contaminate household wells. This situation is cause for alarm, and liability is increasingly a real concern.

The County Soil and Water Conservation Department (SWCD) developed a sample “Cropland Rental Agreement with Conservation Option” to protect property owners from liability. Interested property owners can download the form via the SWCD website under “Land Lease Agreements.” The form stipulates the landowner’s authority to review nutrient management practices and other precautions and assigns responsibility for surface water and well protection to the operator. The form allows for specific agreements on the types of nutrients to be applied, specific animal waste application practices as well as tillage and soil conservation practices.

Property owners, farmers and anyone concerned about groundwater, well protection and other environmental matters will find the forum offers practical suggestions and useful information.