The lakes of the Yahara Watershed—Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, and Kegonsa—define Dane County, adding grace, beauty, and recreational opportunity to Wisconsin’s State Capitol region. Yet, one cannot live in this region without noticing the annual algae blooms, dead fish in green soupy waters along the shoreline, and yearly beach closures. These elements illustrate the challenges the lakes face today due to an unacceptable level of phosphorus in the water. According to scientists at the UW–Madison Center for Limnology, the chief cause is the large amounts of phosphorus that enter the interconnected lakes through streams and waterways.
Cleaning up the Madison-area lakes is becoming a priority for many in the Dane County region, and today it has become more critical than ever. The Wisconsin State Journal’s editorial board recently named the issue one of their top five priorities for 2012, calling for bold leadership and action by Clean Lakes Alliance (CLA), a new partnership between businesses, municipalities, technical experts, citizen groups and individuals with a desire to bring to fruition the decades of work undertaken in the effort to restore and preserve the Yahara Watershed.
Responding to the challenge, CLA is working to build the community support and financial resources necessary to reduce phosphorus input by 50%. While research and monitoring will build the knowledge needed to best prevent algae blooms and improve water clarity, CLA and partners are already working with farmers near the Yahara Watershed to plant cover crops, which reduces the need for fertilizer and prevents subsequent phosphorus runoff, and explore better ways of handling phosphorus- based fertilizers and nutrient-rich manure.
Sponsoring and promoting family-friendly activities that encourage area residents to invest in their lakes is another way CLA is spurring the effort clean up these waterways. In April of 2012, CLA is hosting the Save Our Lakes Summit and releasing the first edition of an annual report card tracking the progress of the cleanup effort titled, The State of the Yahara Lakes. This year’s edition will provide a snapshot of overall water quality and other data important to ice fisherman, boaters, waterskiers, beachgoers, and just about anyone who appreciates the Yahara Watershed.
To download the report card and learn about other ways to support the effort visit cleanlakesalliance.com.