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Aquatic plant transport barge on Lake Mendota

By Pete Jopke, Water Resources Planner with the Dane County Land & Water Resources Department
Article first published in the 2022 Greater Madison Lake Guide, a Clean Lakes Alliance publication

Aquatic plant harvesting on the Yahara lakes

The Dane County Land & Water Resources Department manages an aquatic plant harvesting program with much of the harvesting occurring on lakes Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, and Kegonsa. Occasionally, other smaller waterbodies are harvested to aid in recreation and invasive plant management. The program dates to the early 1980’s when five harvesters were in operation. In those years, harvests totaled over 300 tons of plant material. In 2021, the existing fleet of 12 harvesters recorded plant harvests of more than 12,000 tons!

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Water quality monitoring equipment

LakeForecast water quality monitoring in 2021

In 2021, our volunteers embarked on the 9th season of LakeForecast water quality monitoring. This work involved collecting nearshore condition reports at piers, beaches, parks, and access points around the five Yahara lakes. From May through September, volunteers took water quality measurements. They measured water clarity, recorded air and water temperature, identified the presence of green algae and cyanobacteria, and noted additional visual observations. Reports are entered into the LakeForecast app where all data are updated in real time.

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Iolight portable microscope

New opportunities to learn about and help our lakes can arise unexpectedly. Such is the case when Madison Gas and Electric‘s Jeff Jaeckels reached out to Clean Lakes Alliance about a research group looking for volunteers to study the lakes in a novel way. Studying the lakes through artificial intelligence will allow Clean Lakes Alliance and our partners to better monitor and research harmful algal blooms.

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Water Quality Monitoring

In 2020 water quality monitoring took place at piers and beaches around the five Yahara lakes. Volunteers measured near-shore water clarity, air and water temperature, and noted several visual observations during the monitoring season, which runs from May to September. 

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Sunset over Lake Mendota

Fun finds around the Yahara Watershed

Although the most beloved beaches and piers are popular for good reason, there are also some hidden gems around the watershed that may just become your new favorite as we practice social distancing!

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Bernies Beach

A shared vision for clean, safe, and accessible lakes

In August 2019, leaders from government, business, and nonprofit organizations came together with a shared vision. The vision included a future in which Greater Madison’s five Yahara lakes are clean, safe, and accessible for everyone. Together, the 19 partners and collaborators formed the Yahara CLEAN Compact and committed to sharing resources and working together to curb pollution and chart the best path forward to cleaner, healthier lakes.

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Loop the Lake 2019 - with Friends sign

Take the next step and support our lakes!

Are you looking for a way to connect with our lakes this spring and summer? Here are 8 ways you can support Clean Lakes Alliance as we work toward protecting and improving the lakes of the Yahara Watershed.

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Water Quality Monitoring

Overview

In 2019 water quality monitoring took place at piers and beaches around the five Yahara lakes. Volunteers measured near-shore water clarity, air and water temperature, and noted several visual observations during the monitoring season, which runs from May to September. 

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Panorama of the Waubesa Wetlands

Behold The Things We Cannot See

About the author: My name is Karin Swanson and I am a student of the Yahara Watershed Academy. I work for Clean Lakes Alliance as the Marketing and Communications Associate Manager and I am a Meteorologist. I am sharing my journey through the Academy in an effort to expand our community’s knowledge and passion for the Yahara River Watershed.

The forgotten and sometimes unknown pieces of our watershed

“Behold the things we cannot see.” Take a moment to think about that sentence. What does it mean? We are so plugged in these days, but there is an abundance of information we can absorb that isn’t on Google or in a text book. There are actions occurring all around us. We may not know those things are happening, but we must trust and behold those occurrences – even if we cannot see the processes happening.

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2018 Annual State of the Lakes Report

2018 takeaways

  • Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) blooms appeared in our lakes at an alarming scale, highlighting continued challenges with water quality.
    • 72% of beach closures from Memorial Day to August 20th were due to cyanobacteria blooms
    • June continues to be the biggest month for cyanobacteria blooms for the fourth year
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