Water quality data, privacy, and communication strategies


Abigail Becker


Case Type
Project Stories
Sustainable Development Goals
02 Zero Hunger, 06 Clean Water and Sanitation

As a part of the UniverCity Year projects aiding Pepin County, our Environmental Monitoring Seminar was presented with water quality data concerning nitrate concentration within the county. Pepin is a small county in west-central Wisconsin whose rural residents rely on private wells for their water supply. The integrity of these private wells is threatened by malfunctioning septic systems, agricultural chemicals, and the land-spreading of animal wastes. Surface waters in the county too are threatened duetocontamination fromsediment and nitraterunoff.

Data collected measuring the nitrate and coliform bacteria contaminating Pepin’s water supply is neither comprehensive nor systematically-collected. This data collection effort spans 1979 to 2018, andwithout a consistent basis for recording, there are information gaps. Furthermore, Pepin is one of the smallest counties in Wisconsin; with just 7,400 residents over 249 square miles. The contamination data in its current state compromises the privacy of these residents and threatens the already-contentious relationship between rural residents and large-scale farmers.

Our goal was to gather and refine the contamination datasheets, assess their privacy concerns, and strategize methods of presenting and communicating the water and soil data. We worked to develop methods to display and disseminate the contamination data in a way that protects the privacy of Pepin residents and preserves the resident-farmer relationship.

UniverCity Year Contact Info
Gavin Luter
Managing Director

University Faculty Contact
Stephen Ventura

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