Public Trust Doctrine
- Wisconsin, under the State’s constitution, holdsnavigable waters in trust for the public. Rights of the public includenavigation, water quality and quantity, ﬁshing and swimming, andscenic beauty.
Riparian Rights Doctrine
- Rights of riparian landowners (people whoown land adjacent to water) include consumptive use, trapping and ﬁsh-ing, and exclusive use of shoreland property above the high water mark.Riparian rights are limited by the rights of the public under the publictrust doctrine.
Clean Water Act
(1972, Revised 1981, 1987) is federal water quality legislation requires the U.S. EPA to regulate water pollution and protectand preserve waters of the United States, including wetlands. In Wis-consin, the EPA delegates administration of the NPDES (National Pol-lution Discharge Elimination System) program established in the Clean Water Act to the Wisconsin DNR.
Safe Drinking Water Act
(1974 Amended 1986, 1996) e EPA estab-lishes nation-wide standards for contaminants (natural and man-made)in public water systems. ese standards are regulated and enforced by the DNR.
Navigable Waters Law
(Wis. Stats., Chapter 30, Amended 2003 Act118, and Chapter 31)
ese chapters regulate navigable waters, harbors,boating and dams. ey include rights and restrictions for public useand riparian owners, permit requirements for projects in and near wa-ters, and conservation and improvement programs.
Wisconsin Zoning Ordinances
(Section 281.31, Wis. Stats.; Wis. Admin. Code Chapters NR 115, 117) e state establishes minimumshoreland and shoreland wetland zoning standards that local govern-ments must meet. ese include ordinances governing shoreland devel-opment and land use around wetlands in shoreland districts.
Regulation and Enforcement
e U.S. government oversees waters thatmay be used for interstate commerce.e
Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) regulates water quality, pollutionand drinking water standards.e
Army Corps of Engineers
(ACE)oversees projects that alter waterways,including discharges to wetlands, withEPA review.e
U.S. Coast Guard
enforces regula-tions in ports and waters of the UnitedStates.
e state protects navigable waters heldin public trust and has regulatory author-ity over all water resources in the state.e
Department of Natural Resources
(DNR) is principle state agency in chargeof water resource regulations to protectpublic rights, health and safety. Water resources are aﬀected by regula-tions of many state agencies:
Department of Agriculture, Trade andConsumer Protection
Department of Transportation
Department of Commerce
County, city and village governmentshave some regulatory authority over local water resources, as do municipal bodiesincluding sewage and sanitary districts, water utilities, and farm drainage dis-tricts.
The waters of Southeastern Wisconsin are vast but vulnerable.We depend on our waters for drinking water, irrigation, industry, transportation, power production,recreation and scenic beauty.Understanding our region’s water-related issues and future challenges can help us protectclean, abundant water for generations to come.
Wisconsin Water Law