Phosphorus and Sediment In Streams-Not a Good Thing
High levels of phosphorus and sediment coupled with low dissolved oxygen levels threaten the health of streams and lakes throughout the Yahara River watershed (YRW). Of the approximately 580 stream miles within the Yahara River watershed, over 39% are currently listed as “impaired” by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR). These streams do not meet water quality standards established by the Clean Water Act Section 303 (d). One of the main contributors of pollution is phosphorus.
Reducing Phosphorus Through Adaptive Management
Watershed adaptive management is a new, innovative, and collaborative compliance approach designed to meet regulatory requirements for phosphorus reduction in a cost-effective manner. Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), in partnership with Dane County, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), and multiple cities, villages, and towns are implementing a watershed adaptive management project to reduce runoff to lakes and streams in the Yahara River Watershed. This collaborative effort is called Yahara WINs (Watershed Improvement Network). Phosphorus and sediment reduction efforts will need to include a mix of agricultural and non-agricultural practices. Success of these efforts will need to be shown through modeling and water quality monitoring. Both traditional in-stream water quality monitoring and edge-of field monitoring are integral to this effort
Why Volunteers Are Critical To This Effort
Because many of stream segments within the YRW lacked sufficient in-stream water quality data, the Rock River Coalition (RRC) put forth a proposal to fund an extensive network of citizen stream monitors that could augment existing stream monitoring established by the WDNR, MMSD and USGS. Begun in 2013, this project has two main goals:
- To determine in-stream water quality conditions (status) for streams previously lacking data; and,
- To track changes in-stream water quality over time (trends) that may be caused by changing land use and water management practices.
Including volunteer stream monitors in the Adaptive Management Program
- expands geographical coverage to include more stream stretches than might otherwise be possible with more expensive monitoring methods;
- increases the frequency of monitoring; and
- builds greater awareness of the threats to water quality in the Yahara River Watershed.
For the past four years, the RRC has coordinated a successful volunteer stream monitoring program in the Yahara River Watershed. Volunteer teams conduct baseline water quality monitoring in addition to collecting nutrient samples.
For the 2016 monitoring years:
- 51 stream stations are monitored by RRC volunteers on a monthly bases for dissolved oxygen concentrations, stream temperature, water clarity, and stream flow (when possible). Volunteers also assess stream health by using a biological assessment called, Biotic Index.
- 27 stream stations were established by volunteers to monitor continuous water temperatures using automated data loggers.
- 35 stream stations are active nutrient sampling sites. Volunteers collect and deliver these samples to the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District Nine Springs Plant to be analyzed for concentrations of total phosphorus, total suspended solids, total kjeldahl nitrogen, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, and ortho-phosphorus.
- From May 2013 to October, 2016, RRC volunteer stream monitors have collected 580 water samples.
2013-2016 Data Summary Charts
In an effort to share data with all volunteers and partners, RRC has created a series of interactive data visualization maps and graphs using Tableau software. These visualizations are now available by following this link:
Older Data Sharing Series
May 2013-June 2016: Monthly Concentrations and Minimum – Maximum Results For Each Stream Station–Please note: These links direct you to a series of excel pivot charts shared via OneDrive.
- Total Phosphorus Concentrations (mg/L)
- Total Suspended Solids Concentrations (mg/L)
- Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen Concentrations (mg/L)
May 2013-October 2014 Static Reports
- 2013_2014 YRW Badfish Creek Watershed Volunteer Stream Monitoring Results(final)
- 2013_2014 YRW Lake Kegonsa Watershed Volunteer Stream Monitoring Results(final)
- 2013_2014 YRW Lake Monona Watershed Volunteer Stream Monitoring Results(final)
- 2013_2014 YRW Lake Mendota Watershed Volunteer Stream Monitoring Results(final)
- 2013_2014 YRW Six Mile and Pheasant Branch Creek Watershed Volunteer Stream Monitoring Results(final)
Volunteers use monitoring methods established by the state-wide Water Action Volunteers Program (UWEX and WDNR). Follow this link to read more about methods used by volunteers in this project: 2016 Level 2 Stream Monitoring Methods and Nutrient Sampling Procedures_merged
- 2013 Project Proposal: Rock River Coalition Stream Monitoring Program in Yahara River Watershed_Final2
- 2014 Project Proposal: 2014 Continuing to Build A Citizen Stream Monitoring Program in Yahara River Watershed
- 2015 Project Proposal: 2015 Project Proposal Summary (Final)
- 2016 Project Proposal: 2016 Project Continuance Proposal
- 2017 Project Proposal: 2017 Project Continuance Proposal
- 2013 End of Year 1 Report: RRC Volunteer Stream Monitoring Year 1_2013_2014_Final Report
- 2014 End of Year 2 Report: 2014 RRC Citizen-Based Stream Monitoring Project_Final Year 2 Report
- 2014 Citizen Stream Monitoring Progress Report for 2014 Yahara WINs Annual Report: 2014 Citizen-Based Stream Monitoring Project_Accomplishments_Yahara WINs Annual Report