Yahara CLEAN

The evolution of Yahara CLEAN

Clean lakes won’t happen overnight. Progress requires a clear plan and dedicated coalition of organizations and resources. In 2008, Dane County, City of Madison, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection launched a lake cleanup partnership called Yahara CLEAN (Capital Lakes Environmental Assessment and Needs). Two years later, the group released a report outlining 70 recommendations. The recommendations include rehabilitating water quality, reducing phosphorus, and improving beach safety.

In 2012, Clean Lakes Alliance reconvened the coalition of partners. An engineering firm was hired to identify the 14 most cost-effective, ready-to-implement projects and practices to help reach the 50% phosphorus reduction goal. The result was the Yahara CLEAN Strategic Action Plan for Phosphorus Reduction. The plan identified the total cost of achieving planned phosphorus reductions. It also detailed the cost per pound of phosphorus reduced by each individual action.

Clean Lakes Alliance’s role

For the Yahara CLEAN Compact, Clean Lakes Alliance is reconvening and expanding partnerships to update the 14 actions to account for progress being made and new information about our changing climate. This work will include updates and improvements to targets, strategies, costs, and timelines. The updated actions will help propel us toward our ambitious goal of cutting long-term phosphorus loading to our lakes. If we’re successful, UW Center for Limnology scientists estimate we will double the number of summer days when our lakes are clear and free of algae blooms.


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. This cost comes 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 toward Yahara CLEAN?

Yes! Clean Lakes Alliance surveys partners each year and presents the findings in the State of the Lakes Annual Report. The report is released each May at the Clean Lakes Community Breakfast.

The next steps

Clean Lakes Alliance will work with partners to review the accuracy of present-day phosphorus modeling and targets, and continue to communicate phosphorus reduction progress and lake conditions to the public.

Challenges like climate change, urbanization, and legacy phosphorus mean we will need to increase efforts to achieve clean lakes. Clean Lakes Alliance published an update to Plan 2020: A Clear Path Forward in 2019. This new version will help focus efforts on the eight most effective target areas. We continue to advocate for establishing a dedicated source of funding to implement Yahara CLEAN.

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

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