About Clean Lakes Alliance

Clean Lakes Alliance is a nonprofit organization devoted to improving the water quality of the lakes, streams, and wetlands of the Yahara River Watershed.

We are a unique partnership of diverse stakeholders who are building on and expanding upon decades of ongoing efforts to preserve and restore our waters.

Our goal is to raise community awareness of the issues facing the watershed, advocate for the welfare of our lakes, and help procure the necessary funding to clean and protect these waterways.

We work closely with state, county and local government agencies, waterway user groups, lakefront property owners, and community nonprofits to serve as both a positive voice for the promotion of our cherished lakes and a fundraising vehicle for achieving these ends.


Learn more about Clean Lakes Alliance:

We envision a community renowned for its healthy lakes, lands, and waters. Healthy Waters. Thriving Community.

Our mission is to champion our lakes and watershed stewardship for the benefit of all.

Optimism  Together, we can build a better future knowing cleaner lakes are possible.

Respect and Reverence for Water – Our waters are the heart and life of our community.

Focus – Directing our energy makes us effective.

Engagement – Our community thrives when everyone celebrates, connects with, and cares for our lakes, lands, and waters.

Inclusion – We are stronger and wiser when we embrace and value all voices and experiences.

Collaboration – Alliances and teamwork flourish when we intentionally build trust and respect.

Grounded in Science – Good information and objectivity lead to high-impact decisions.

The strategic framework is a summary of Clean Lakes Alliance’s vision, mission, values, strategies, tactics, and key performance indicators. It sets the direction of the organization’s work over the next five years. It also helps get team members and supporters on the same page regarding lessons of the past, what the current moment calls for, and what it will look like when we reach our destination. This includes identifying new opportunities where additional resources and capacities could be directed to broaden or accelerate our impact.

Reducing phosphorus remains the top priority for Clean Lakes Alliance. The strategic framework solidifies this and other priorities to guide the organization’s future focus. Phosphorus pollution mostly enters our lakes in the form of stormwater runoff, and it is the leading contributor to poor water clarity, cyanobacteria blooms, and beach closures that limit our ability to use and enjoy them. Renew the Blue (2022) recommendations also underscore the importance of highly functioning shorelines and lake parks, and call attention to the role of E. coli bacteria in closing beaches. These other areas present new opportunities for focus within the scope of this five-year strategic framework. But while the framework offers tactical considerations under each strategy pillar described below, it is not an operations plan. Instead, it is designed to help inform the development of annual goals and work plans governing the execution of day-to-day activities.

Read the entire Strategic Framework.

Clean Lakes Alliance envisions a community renowned for its healthy lakes, lands, and waters. The more people who share in this vision, the more that clean, safe, and vibrant lakes will become a priority. Making lakes Mendota, Monona, Wingra, Waubesa, and Kegonsa top priorities is, therefore, foundational to everything we do.

In concert with building a stronger alliance and positive voice for our lakes, we remain laser-focused on reducing phosphorus pollution—the leading contributor to algal blooms and poor water quality. We also work to expose other threats while leveraging opportunities that will further our mission.

2022 was another year characterized by strong partnerships, driven team members, and a growing base of support helping us to successfully “champion the lakes and watershed stewardship for the benefit of all.” With renewed attention to core program services, new event formats, and the power of volunteerism, we successfully completed another year even healthier and more focused than ever.

Since our founding in 2010, Clean Lakes Alliance has grown to become one of the largest and most influential nonprofit lake organizations in the nation. Additionally, we ended the year on a strong financial footing as we continue to diversify and shift our revenue streams to earlier fiscal quarters.

Thank you for helping us further the goal of achieving a better water quality future for our lakes.

Read highlights from 2022 in our Impact Report.

All water in the Yahara Watershed is connected. Our lakes, streams, wetlands, and groundwater make up critical components of an interdependent hydrologic system. Given the immeasurable value of clean drinking and surface water to Greater Madison, ALL our water resources demand respect, protection, and wise stewardship for the betterment of future generations. Read more about the connection between all water in the Yahara Watershed.

The Early Years

The Clean Lakes Festival, which began in 2007, was organized by the Mad-City Water Ski Team in an effort to raise money to help clean up the lakes. On November 8, 2010, Clean Lakes Alliance was formed, evolving from a volunteer group into an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The organization started developing and seeking members to become its first board. The first board meeting was held in January 2011.

Our management team consists of an executive board of directors that works closely with Clean Lakes Alliance executive staff to devise community engagement strategies, increase participation in lake activities and events, and create additional opportunities for outreach and education. A Community Board made up of stakeholders and partnering organizations provides us with additional direction in reaching our objectives and strengthening key relationships.

The Future

In 2012, Clean Lakes Alliance commissioned the Yahara CLEAN Strategic Action Plan for Phosphorus Reduction to cut phosphorus runoff to our lakes in half, which will mean clearer water and fewer algae blooms. Today, Clean Lakes Alliance is working to build community support and the financial resources necessary to reach our goal.

Working with others

Clean Lakes Alliance is working with community partners and collaborators to update our phosphorus reduction roadmap. This work will reassess phosphorus reduction targets, strategies, costs, and implementation roles and timelines. In 2018, the Dane County Healthy Farms Healthy Lakes Task Force recommended these planning updates. The objective is to both address challenges like climate change and to accelerate progress toward our water quality goals.

Clean Lakes Alliance published its four-year organizational strategy, Plan 2020: A Clear Path Forward (2017-2020). This strategic plan focuses resources on the eight most effective target areas to focus our work and leverage our strengths. Our action priorities continue to focus on the biggest contributor to lake problems, excessive phosphorus, while building a strong community of support for the lakes. We continue to advocate for establishing a dedicated source of funding to implement Yahara CLEAN.

Plan 2020: A Clear Path Forward

Plan 2020 focus areas

Phosphorus Actions

Since the founding of Clean Lakes Alliance in 2010, our primary focus has been phosphorus reduction in our lakes. Reductions need to come from both urban and rural sources. The following phosphorus reduction focus areas highlight our commitment to engaging government, business, and community members in developing and implementing solutions that will improve water quality for years to come.

  1. Yahara CLEAN Compact
  2. Innovative Solutions
  3. Farmland Management
  4. Urban Management

Community Engagement Actions

We see a future in which everyone realizes the lakes are the center of our community. Our community engagement focus areas help mobilize and empower stakeholders to protect and improve water quality in watershed. As citizens make the lakes a priority, it will spark action to make healthy lakes a reality.

  1. Education
  2. Volunteerism
  3. Monitoring
  4. Capacity Building

Search our website for something else: