Yahara CLEAN

About the Yahara CLEAN plan

The Yahara CLEAN Strategic Action Plan for Reducing Phosphorus, published by Clean Lakes Alliance on November 9, 2012, details fourteen specific actions with clear, achievable phosphorus-reduction goals to clean up the lakes. The actions promote proven, cost-effective urban and rural practices that will produce dramatic improvements in lake water quality.

The objective of the actions is to ultimately achieve a 50% reduction in the average annual phosphorus load from the watershed of each Yahara lake. This should increase the number of days when the lakes are clear and our beaches open, and significantly reduce the number of toxic algal blooms that limit recreational enjoyment of the lakes.

The Yahara CLEAN Strategic Action plan builds on the previous Yahara Capital Lakes Assessment & Needs partnership. Many public and private community partners are playing an important role in meeting the Yahara CLEAN goals.

Read the full plan (PDF)

Read Plan 2020: A Clear Path Forward – 2018 Priorities Update

Many Efforts. One Goal.

Dane County is a leader in the efforts to reduce phosphorus loading in the Yahara watershed. Among their many efforts, the Land and Water Resources Department works with farmers to improve their manure management and nutrient control efforts, and to improve stormwater control in urban areas. And with whole-hearted support from Clean Lakes Alliance, the county continues to pass budgets with more money for lakes efforts than every before.

Yahara WINs is a collaborative effort spearheaded by the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District that coordinates and funds phosphorus reduction efforts among over 30 partners as part of a full-scale watershed-wide project.

The City of Madison is the largest municipality in the watershed and is playing an important role in exploring new ways to reduce phosphorus in urban stormwater and through leaf management.

Yahara Pride Farms, the farmer-led, agricultural partner of Clean Lakes Alliance, is working with farmers to provide technical assistance and cost-share opportunities as they work to implement best management practices on their farms.

Clean Lakes Alliance is developing partnerships, providing technical and financial assistance, and leadership to achieve the phosphorus reduction goals outlined in the Yahara CLEAN plan.

Yahara CLEAN Executive Summary 

The impaired water quality of the Yahara River chain of lakes, Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, and Kegonsa, can be seen in the number of beach closures due to potentially toxic blue green algae, the lack of water clarity, and the smell of decay from our over-fertilized lakes. Past efforts to clean the lakes of these problems led to improvements in the treatment of sewage and other point sources of pollution. Today’s challenge is to address phosphorus enriched runoff from urban and rural lands, known as non-point source pollution.

The Yahara CLEAN Strategic Action Plan for Reducing Phosphorus enumerates fourteen specific actions with clear, achievable phosphorus reduction goals to clean the lakes. The actions promote proven, cost-effective urban and rural practices to address phosphorus pollution now. The goal of the plan is to produce dramatic improvements in lake water quality by achieving a 50% reduction in the average annual phosphorus load from direct drainage sources in the Yahara chain of lakes. If no other significant water quality threats intervene – and once phosphorus load reduction goals are realized – we will double the number of days when the lakes are clear, our beaches are open, and we will significantly reduce the number toxic algal blooms that limit recreational enjoyment of the lakes.

Overall, 71% of the phosphorus load reduction must come from rural areas.  Fortunately, many farmers and livestock owners are already hard at work to reduce phosphorus enriched runoff.  They will be intensifying their efforts to improve cropping, tillage, and in-field practices and managing manure and nutrients to meet the goals in the plan. Yahara Pride Farms will be supporting farmers in their phosphorus reduction efforts. Building more community manure digesters will be one important action to help farmers manage manure so that less phosphorus reaches area lakes and streams.

Overall, 28% of the phosphorus load reduction comes from urban areas.  It will be challenging to meet the phosphorus reduction goals in urban areas since so much of the land is developed and there is little opportunity to clear stormwater of phosphorus before it reaches the lakes. To meet this challenge urban residents and municipalities will be called upon to improve leaf management and control of construction erosion, stabilize urban waterway banks, and reduce the amount of total suspended solids from runoff in municipal stormwater.

Through the combination of urban and rural actions, we will reduce phosphorus loads into Lake Mendota by 53%, Lake Monona by 26%, Lake Waubesa by 50%, and Lake Kegonsa by 56%. Phosphorus reductions in the Lake Mendota watershed will provide additional benefits to the rest of the lakes since phosphorus from Mendota flows to each of the downstream lakes via the Yahara River. In the next few years, we will use emerging technologies, like in-stream phosphorus treatment, to further reduce the phosphorus load to Lake Monona and achieve the 50% target.

The estimated net cost to implement all the Yahara CLEAN actions is $78.6 million dollars, after a deduction of $49.5 million in private business investment in community digesters. The remaining funds will be raised through a combination of public and private sources.

In summary, Clean Lakes Alliance and Yahara CLEAN partners support the following points:

It’s Possible…  We can rehabilitate the lakes, doubling the number of “clear” water days
Commitment…  We have strong commitment and partnerships to renew and expand the effort
Road Map…  We have 14 actions to reduce phosphorus by 50% in each lake
Action…  We are poised to take action as a community and involve all citizens in the efforts
Yahara WINs…  We are part of an innovative partnership of municipalities and nonprofits to reduce rural and urban phosphorus enriched runoff
Support Clean Water…  Support elected officials in their efforts to clean the lakes