More Rain Means More Bacteria And Viruses In Northern Wisconsin's Groundwater

Wisconsin scientists helped pioneer the study of bacteria and viruses in groundwater. Their research has discovered that microorganisms can occur deeper underground and live longer than previously assumed. They’ve also analyzed whether more people get sick when utilities don't disinfect their drinking water — and they do, especially children.

A Florida State University professor looked to Wisconsin for another first in this line of inquiry — investigating how climate change might make people more vulnerable to groundwater-borne pathogens in the decades ahead.

In an article published in the January 2017 issue of Hydrogeology Journal, FSU geography professor Christopher Uejio and his collaborators reported how they used computer modeling to project how higher levels of precipitation and non-disinfection of groundwater might affect gastrointestinal illness in children between the years 2046 and 2065 in five communities in Rusk County in northern Wisconsin: Ladysmith, Bruce, Tony, Glen Flora and Hawkins. In the worst case, Uejio found the rate of GI illnesses among children in these areas could grow by a little over four percent — a marginal increase, but an indication that an existing public health problem will persist over the long run where communities don't disinfect their water.