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Citizen scientists inform the public

What started in 2013 as a handful of Clean Lakes Alliance board members testing the water has now grown into a network of over 70 volunteers doing weekly water quality monitoring on all five lakes.

Each week this summer, our team of monitors gathered data on water clarity and temperature, making visual observations on beach conditions, and identifying potentially harmful blue-green algae blooms. And what a summer it was!

Spotlight on algae blooms

In 2017, Madison saw multiple days where toxic blue-green algae blooms affected large sections of our lakes. Citizen monitors were able to identify these blooms, allowing lakeforecast.org to report the affected areas. The improved monitoring network helped Clean Lakes Alliance send alerts on social media and by email to keep people in the community aware and safe.

With the increased monitoring around the lakes came increased attention from users – and the media. Throughout the summer Clean Lakes Alliance staff and citizen monitors were featured in news stories related to blue-green algae blooms and other lake related issues. The increased attention helped drive more traffic to lakeforecast.org, inform more people about lake conditions, and ultimately helped get more people involved in our mission.

We also took a unique approach to sharing lake conditions on social media through Adam’s humorous and information Weekend Lake Reports. These two-minute videos, seen by 2,500 to 7,500 people each week, gave tips on the best spots on the lakes for the weekend. Adam, who is Clean Lakes Alliance’s director of marketing and development, is up for Madison Magazine’s best of Madison social media personality! You can vote for Adam through October 15th, 2017.

Plans for the future

Looking ahead to 2018, we intend to grow our monitoring program to increase monitoring at our beaches, and increase sampling throughout the week. The data collected not only helps lake users, but also will allow scientists to forecast long-range lake conditions.

Madison is a leader in so many respects, and our citizen scientists are helping us lead in providing lake information to the public. The more information we can continue to deliver, the more confidence people will have using our lakes — and the more lake health will be a top priority for everybody.

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