In the discussion of Harmful Algae Blooms (HAB), there is perhaps no better location to reference than Kewaunee County, WI. As has been discussed in a previous CWW article, dairy farming is big business for this county with a population of about 21,000 people.
Really big business.
So much so that dairy cows outnumber the human population almost 4 to 1. That’s right. Nearly 80,000 dairy cattle, in one small WI county … with a vast Lake Michigan shoreline.
Now, if you are thinking that’s alot of cows, you are correct. And it has created a poopy situation which, despite the play on words, is actually incredibly serious.
As of 2016, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, fully one-third of all Kewaunee County wells are contaminated.
In this terrific 2015 study conducted by The Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, mounds of empirical evidence supports the need for a better way of managing dairy cow manure. The well contamination is noted — in fact, this study proposed that it is one-half of the wells in the county that are contaminated — as well as the geological makeup of Kewaunee County; the rampant growth of dairy operations, and more.
All of it is useful information. But, for me, the most glaring number is this:
One cow generates at least 18 times the amount of waste as one human. Every day. 24/365.
And, while municipalities go to great lengths to control street runoff, waste from homes, etc., dairy farms have far less regulation and must meet far lower waste-management standards.
Imagine what the sanitation treatment landscape would look like if Kewaunee County held 360,000 people — making it the fourth most populated of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, instead of its current ranking of #52.
Do you see where this is going?
In the race to provide dairy products to a planet full of people, we are clearly trading freshwater for milk. Since it has been estimated that it takes some 40 gallons of fresh water to produce an 8 ounce glass of milk, that is an alarmingly one-sided deal.
One might even call it a waste.