Most communities in central Wisconsin are blessed with an abundant supply of water. Communities such as Wausau can meet their needs by pumping water from relatively shallow wells drilled into the sand and gravel. The water removed is readily replaced, in part from rain and snow seeping into the ground.

A problem many local communities, including Wausau, came to understand in the early 1980's is that where the water can readily seep into the aquifer, so can unwanted contaminates. Once the water is contaminated, cleaning it up can be a long and expensive process, proving the old saying "An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure".

The idea of a wellhead protection program is to encourage environmentally safe land uses near the well recharge areas. The City of Wausau relies on 4 wells located on the north side of the city west of the Wisconsin River. A fifth well is located on the east side of the river.

A well head protection area has been created for the west side wells. The well head protection area is divided into a Zone A nearest the well and a Zone B where contamination would take more than 5 years to reach the wells. The Wausau City Wellhead Protection Ordinance provides restrictions for commercial development in the wellhead protection area to discourage businesses that are likely to cause groundwater contamination from locating there.

The City ordinance is only one part of the Well Head Protection Program. Residents are encouraged to use household chemicals and products in an environmentally safe manner and to dispose of them properly. Businesses, no matter where they are located, have also learned to be more responsible.