Jun 27, 2012

Sand County Foundation Joins Water Quality Initiative

Sand County Foundation joined Wisconsin's Dane County, the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District and others to announce an innovative water quality project to benefit Wisconsin’s waterways

The Sand County Foundation joined Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) and other partners to announce a groundbreaking water quality project to benefit Wisconsin’s waterways.

MMSD, working with Dane County and local municipalities, will pay farmers and organizations located in or near the Lake Mendota watershed, north of Madison, to apply land management practices, such as planting buffer strips along ditches and streams, intended to reduce phosphorus runoff.

“What we’re doing with adaptive management is we’re addressing the cause upstream before phosphorous enters the chain of lakes, and we can do that with relatively inexpensive techniques,” Parisi said.

Sand County Foundation committed funds to pay for water quality monitoring that, over time, should demonstrate the level of effectiveness of these practices. The project, referred to as the Yahara WINs (Yahara Watershed Improvement Network) partnership, is the first in Wisconsin to use the Watershed Adaptive Management Option (WAMO) to reduce nutrient runoff.

“WAMO has the potential to be a model for communities across the country struggling to ensure clean water for their residents at an affordable cost," said Joseph Britt of the Sand County Foundation. “Sand County Foundation is honored to participate in this project of national significance.”

The presence of excess nutrients, including phosphorous, in America’s rivers, lakes and streams is a significant environmental issue. On the land, where it belongs, phosphorus is a nutrient that promotes the growth of corn, hay, grass and other vegetation. In water, it promotes algae growth. When the algae die, the decay absorbs all the oxygen in the water, harming fisheries and, in extreme cases, producing toxins dangerous to human health.

Traditional methods to reduce phosphorous from water tend to be expensive for municipalities and their ratepayers. Through this partnership, MMSD, municipalities and farmers will combine their resources to add cost-effective practices throughout the watershed to reduce phosphorous runoff at the source.

Wisconsin’s farm families are critical to the success of this project. “Adaptive management makes good financial sense at a time when we need to get the most out of every dollar,” said Jeff Endres, a town of Springfield farmer. “It is important that we work together as partners to continue reducing phosphorous loading into waterways. The cost of being proactive is much less than being reactive.”

Other entities involved in the Yahara WINs partnership include several municipal governments from the Madison lakes area, the city of Madison, Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources, the environmental group Clean Wisconsin and the Clean Lakes Alliance, which represents the Madison business community.