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The Yahara watershed, like many others, is threatened by excessive phosphorus from sources as such as agricultural runoff, urban stormwater and wastewater treatment plant discharges. The elevated phosphorus levels are a threat to water quality and aquatic life throughout the area.
The Yahara Watershed Improvement Network (Yahara WINS), led by MMSD, began in 2012 as a four-year pilot project to reduce phosphorus loads and meet more stringent water quality standards established by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR). This groundbreaking program employs watershed adaptive management, a strategy in which all sources of phosphorus pollution in an area work together to meet water quality goals. This strategy is more effective and less expensive than the sources working separately on individual solutions. Partners in Yahara WINS include cities, villages, towns, wastewater treatment plants, agricultural producers, environmental groups and others.
This unprecedented level of collaboration from this diverse group of partners included significant financial contributions to fund a mix of rural and urban phosphorus reduction projects. Projects range from traditional solutions, such as stormwater retention ponds, harvestable stream buffers, and strip tillage, to innovative new solutions like low-disturbance manure injection.
The pilot project was successfully completed, and Yahara WINS is now embarking on its next phase: a 20-year effort encompassing the whole Yahara watershed. Local governments have entered into an intergovernmental agreement that commits them to provide financial support for the project throughout this phase.