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 Yahara CLEAN actions is to achieve a 50% reduction in the average annual phosphorus load from the watershed of each lake, for more days when the water is clear and our beaches are open. Overall, 71% of the phosphorus load reduction will come from rural areas and 28% of the phosphorus load reduction will come from urban areas. Emerging technologies, like in-stream phosphorus treatment, may also play a role in reducing the phosphorus load to our lakes.

NEW – Healthy Farms Healthy Lakes Task Force recommends updating Yahara CLEAN

The Dane County Healthy Farms Healthy Lakes Task Force was created by the Dane County Board to generate a better understanding of the issues and needs affecting agriculture and lake quality. With Clean Lakes Alliance as an original champion of the effort and subsequent participant, this diverse group of farmers, farm business representatives, university researchers, government experts, and concerned citizen groups approved a final set of action goals on August 1, 2018.

One of the recommendations is to reconvene the Yahara CLEAN partnership coalition to evaluate, update, and adopt Yahara CLEAN. Updates will account for progress to-date, new information, and assumptions used in estimating planned phosphorus reductions, new cost estimates, implementation roles, staffing needs, and a timeline necessary for full operation. For a complete list of the task force recommendations go to: Healthy Farms Healthy Lakes Task Force Summary.

Who are the partners in this effort?

Cleaning up our lakes is a community effort, led by many dedicated watershed partners.

  • Dane County is a leader in efforts to reduce phosphorus loading in the Yahara watershed, with important work carried out by the Land & Water Resources Department
  • Yahara WINs is a collaborative effort spearheaded by the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District that coordinates and funds phosphorus reduction efforts among over 30 partners.
  • City of Madison is the largest municipality in the watershed and is playing an important role in exploring new ways to reduce urban phosphorus runoff
  • Yahara Pride Farms, the farmer-led, agricultural partner of Clean Lakes Alliance, is working to provide technical and cost-share assistance to farmers
  • Clean Lakes Alliance is building a community of people dedicated to our lakes, showing leadership and providing financial and technical assistance to achieve our Yahara CLEAN goals

What will the Yahara CLEAN plan cost?

The estimated net cost to implement all the Yahara CLEAN actions based on the 2012 plan is $78.6 million dollars, after a deduction of $49.5 million in private business investment in community digesters. Unlike previous efforts, Yahara CLEAN identified the highest-priority and most cost-effective actions to achieve the targeted phosphorus load reduction.

Have we made progress towards Yahara CLEAN?

Yes! Watershed partners have kept 14,000 pounds of phosphorus out of the lakes to date as part of the Yahara CLEAN effort. Clean Lakes Alliance surveys implementation partners each year and presents the findings in the State of the Lakes Annual Report, released each May at the Save Our Lakes Community Breakfast.

However, challenges like climate change, urbanization, and legacy phosphorus mean that our community will need to increase our efforts to achieve clean lakes. Clean Lakes Alliance published Plan 2020: A Clear Path Forward in 2017 to help focus our efforts on eight target areas where we will be most effective. We continue to advocate for establishing a dedicated source of funding to implement Yahara CLEAN.