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Dear Friends,

Another year has come and gone on our lakes. Thank you for being a Friend of Clean Lakes. Today, I have only ONE thing on my holiday wish list – healthy lakes.

DONATE today to support our work.

As 2017 closes, we’re already pulling together phosphorus-reduction and water quality numbers for our State of the Lakes annual report. In the meantime, I’m looking back on a few things that have made ME happy this year.

Seven things that make James & the lakes happy:

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2014 Ag Innovation Days

Did you know groundwater levels are actually rising in the northern end of the Yahara Watershed? This video by UW-Madison’s Water Sustainability and Climate Project taps into the benefits of groundwater in agriculture. How does groundwater affect yields? Can we achieve “more crops per drop”? In what ways is crop production affected by changes in weather, land use and farming practices?

Turns out the benefits of higher groundwater can outweigh the costs – and groundwater could even be dynamically managed to benefit crops. Watch the video above to learn more.

Cover Crops in the Snow

In Wisconsin the harvest is wrapping up, but a farmer’s job doesn’t stop when the crops come off. Milking, feeding and caring for animals is a constant, regardless of the season. This also means manure to manage and store.

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Farm Tour

When many of us think composting, we think about throwing a banana peel or two on the heap. But composting has a place in agriculture too – three farms in the Yahara River watershed are implementing manure composting practices and seeing major benefits.

“The initiative Yahara Pride Farms has taken shows that farmers can do the composting process,” said Andy Skwor, agriculture team leader at MSA Professional Services Inc., a Midwest-based consulting firm.

We spoke with Andy last week about this exciting project to test both the costs and environmental benefits of windrow manure composting.

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MMSD chlorides flyer - keep water fresh

Emily Jones, Pollution Prevention Specialist, Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District

Next time you’re at Camp Randall Stadium, take a look around and picture twenty 50-pound bags of water softener salt stacked on top of each of the 80,321 seats. That’s about how much salt makes its way down the drain and to Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District’s wastewater treatment plant every year.

But the salt doesn’t stop there. The treatment plant isn’t designed to remove salt, so salt passes through the plant into local streams, where it can threaten freshwater life. Removing salt at the treatment plant would be expensive and energy-intensive, so MMSD is working to protect water more efficiently by reducing the salt that goes down the drain.

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Zebra mussels Madison lakes

Zebra mussels, a native of Europe and Asia, have recently established a reproducing population in lakes Mendota and Monona. These little filter-feeding organisms can negatively impact native lake ecosystems. Although they might increase water clarity by feeding on zooplankton, green algae and other debris, zebra mussels do not eat blue-green algae. This means they can deplete the water of important fish food and natural algae grazers. Zebra mussels may also damage boat hulls and engines and cut the feet of swimmers. Zebra mussels are difficult to eradicate once established in a water body.

Clean Lakes Alliance is working with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and UW-Madison Center For Limnology to track zebra mussel population establishment and expansion in the Yahara chain of lakes and could use your help!

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Jeff Endres Yahara Pride Farms ag innovation day 2016

Soil is a farmer’s best asset. It provides the nutrients for crops to grow and prosper. To enrich their soil, farmers use various conservation practices to ensure the vitality for generations to come. One such practice is utilizing cover crops, which are grown to improve the soil rather than for profit.

Jeff Endres, chair of Yahara Pride Farms, is doing his best to protect the soil on his farm. Endres planted a pea and barley mix in mid-August after he harvested his winter wheat this July. After he finishes harvesting his corn this fall, he will plant barley. He has found these cover crops to improve his soil and help with the future crop.

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