Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Land & Water Resources Department

Adaptive Management and Water Quality Trading

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has numeric water quality standards for phosphorus in surface waters. Facilities that have a permit to discharge phosphorus (known as point sources) can upgrade their facility to comply with the phosphorus limits, which can be very costly, or they can offset their pollution through Water Quality Trading (NR 283) or Adaptive Management (NR 217). These programs allow the facility to fund conservation practices in the watershed that reduce phosphorus which is typically a more cost effective alternative to facility upgrades.

Dane County is collaborating with permitted facilities to explore permit compliance options with the goal of bringing both point and nonpoint sources together creating a holistic watershed approach to improve water quality. The long standing relationships that staff have with landowners, communities, agencies, and organizations has resulted in the ongoing success of these projects. 

Current Projects

Yahara Watershed Improvement Network (WINS) ¦ 22,089 lbs phosphorus reduced
Project Area: Yahara River Watershed - 536 square miles (344,000 acres)
Nearly 1,200 practices implemented and reducing phosphorus since 2008. View the 2022 Annual Report (PDF) for more information.

Dane-Iowa Wastewater Treatment Facility ¦ 154 lbs phosphorus reduced
Project Area: Black Earth Creek Watershed - 100 square miles (65,000 acres)
Stabilized over 1,000 feet of eroding streambank.

Springfield Clean Water, LLC ¦ 148 lbs phosphorus reduced
Project Area: 4.8 square miles (3,100 acres)
Installed three grassed waterways to address gully erosion.

Cross Plains Wastewater Treatment Facility ¦ 150 lbs phosphorus reduced
Project Area: Upper Black Earth Creek Watershed - 25 square miles (16,225 acres)
Assisted in the abandonment of a barnyard discharging manure.

Blue Mounds Wastewater Treatment Facility ¦ 50-80 lbs phosphorus reduced
Project Area: Williams-Barneveld Creek Watershed – 6 square miles (3,800 acres)
Conversion of 68 acres of cropland to permanent grass.

Mount Horeb Wastewater Treatment Facility ¦ Project starting in 2023
Project Area: Headwaters of the Primrose Branch – West Branch Sugar River – 6 square miles (3,800 acres)
Working with Mount Horeb on the quantification of phosphorus reductions from implemented conservation practices.