Pilot project is first to use innovative phosphorus rules, could become model for nation

MADISON — Dane County leaders announced the creation of a pilot project today that will use tools provided in Wisconsin’s recently passed phosphorus rules to clean up the county’s lakes.

“By allowing farmers and municipalities to work together to clean up phosphorus pollution, Wisconsin’s phosphorus rules offer an entirely new approach that holds great promise to fix Dane County’s decades-old water quality problems,” said Melissa Malott, water program director at Clean Wisconsin and chair of the Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission.

The smelly and unsightly algae blooms that plague many Wisconsin waters every summer are primarily the result of phosphorus pollution. Phosphorus pollution comes from two main sources: farm fields and point sources such as municipal sewerage districts and food processing factories. Previous laws have treated these sources as separate entities, requiring point sources to install expensive technologies. The adaptive management program of the phosphorus rules allows point sources to instead work with farmers to achieve even larger pollution reductions at a lower cost.

“Everyone wins under Wisconsin’s adaptive management program,” said Malott. “Point sources avoid installing expensive technologies, farmers receive financial assistance to make improvements that reduce pollution running off their farm fields, and residents get to look forward to a future of cleaner lakes.”

Wisconsin’s adaptive management program is a first-of-its-kind in the nation. Dane County leaders are optimistic that this pilot project will become a model for cleaning up waters throughout the state and across the nation.

“Through this project, we hope to clean up Dane County’s lakes, and show other communities across the state that the phosphorus rules provide a cost-effective way to clean up our lakes, rivers and streams,” said Malott. “If successful, Wisconsin’s innovative phosphorus rules could become a model for states struggling with water quality issues across the nation.”