By Kristine Hansen   Published Oct 22, 2003 at 5:06 AM

{image1}Wisconsin is no doubt synonymous with water, from the deep depths of Lake Michigan to tiny lakes portaged by early pioneers of the fur trade. Two bordering Great Lakes -- Lake Michigan and Lake Superior for those who have not brushed up on geography -- give Wisconsin access to high-quality water sources.

More than 15,000 lakes, 5 million acres of wetlands and 32,000 miles of rivers and streams are in the state, too. Then there's the Grand Ole Mississippi to the west, offering 190 miles of shoreline.

So, it should be no surprise that the Department of Natural Resources and Gov. Jim Doyle named 2003 "the Year of Water" in Wisconsin. From a marketing standpoint, this helps draw the public's attention to not only the plentiful water sources but also the imminent threats of chemicals in drinking water, non-point source pollution and non-indigenous animal species.

Plunging ahead with that idea, a Web site was launched that directs Wisconsinites to both online and public-library resources about water. Visit the site at Surf through about 30,000 volumes of water-related information, as well as links to other websites.

Partners in the project are the UW Water Resources Library, the UW-Madison Libraries and the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters.

Another organization that helped build the project is the UW Aquatic Sciences Center, which administers the Water Resources Institute and Sea Grant Institute. Library technology staff at UW-Madison Libraries customized software that would permit search-and-display functions.

Information about how to obtain library books -- which you can order through the site -- with text and illustrations concerning frogs, aquatic plant management, landscaping, shipwrecks and more is posted in the online library. A book's title, author, publisher, call number, the year published, and a brief description is noted. There are also CDs, pamphlets, videotapes, microfiches and maps.

By the way, did you know that early French explorers called the area "Ouisconsin," which means "gathering of the waters" in Native American language? And that the entire United States draws 40 billion gallons of water from the Great Lakes each day?

Another fact: Lake Michigan lakeshore property in Door County is assessed at about $2 billion. No word on what's happening in Milwaukee County, though.