Midwest Environmental Advocates is a nonprofit environmental law center that works for healthy water, air, land and government for this generation and the next. We believe that every citizen has the potential to make a difference.

Home » News & Events » News » Will the warm weekend impact water?


Will the warm weekend impact water?

Feb 17, 2017

Wisconsinites may be looking forward to high temperatures near 60 this weekend while also questioning how the melting snow and thawing ground relates to our streams, lakes and groundwater. And in rural areas, rapid freezes, thaws, and repetition of this cycle certainly impacts how and when farms should spread manure in local communities. With warm weather comes the annual warning from the Department of Natural Resources about well water contamination from bacteria and runoff pollution carried by spring rains and snowmelt.

Concentrated animal feeding operations with water pollution permits are subject to a “high-risk runoff period” that runs from February 1 through March 31st. This high-risk period applies differently depending upon whether a CAFO is spreading liquid or solid manure.

  • CAFOs should not spread solid manure during the high-risk period if an inch or more of snow is present on the ground OR if the ground is frozen.
  • CAFOs should not spread liquid manure during this period unless the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources approves emergency application.

Smaller farms, especially those that receive government funding to implement a nutrient management plan and/or conservation practices, should also minimize landspreading of manure when runoff is likely. These farms should not spread on frozen, snow-covered, or saturated soils. More exceptions exist for “high-risk” spreading by these smaller operations, and it may be difficult to enforce landspreading practices for small farms that aren’t subject to a NMP or government cost-sharing.

The public should not feel like it is their responsibility alone to determine whether a particular instance of manure spreading is allowed under state and/or local laws. Remember to use the 24-hour DNR spill emergency hotline at 1-800-943-0003.

Want to learn more? Visit the DNR website on manure spills response, planning and prevention.

Also consider reaching out to a citizen group in your region of the state:





Central Sands Water Action Coalition

Central WI Coalition


Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin

Green Bay



Crawford Stewardship Project

Crawford County



Emerald Clean Water for All

St. Croix County


Farms Not Factories

Bayfield County


Friends of the Central Sands

Waushara County


Green County Defending Our Farmland

Green County


Kewaunee CARES

Kewaunee County


Protect Wood County and its Neighbors

Wood County




Get Midwest Environmental Advocates' posts in your inbox - sign up for our e-newsletters

This blog post is made possible by member Advocates and other generous donors to our nonprofit law center. Become an Advocate by joining MEA today with your tax-deductible contribution

/ tagged: drinking water, rural, agriculture, water