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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) ¦ 21,838 lbs phosphorus reduced
Project Area: Yahara River Watershed - 536 square miles (344,000 acres)
Assisted agricultural producers in implementing over 1,100 conservation practices. View the 2021 Annual Report (PDF) for more information.

Dane-Iowa Wastewater Treatment Facility ¦ Projects starting in 2022
Project Area: Black Earth Creek Watershed - 100 square miles (65,000 acres)
Continue to work with Dane-Iowa to identify projects and conservation practices to improve water quality.

Springfield Clean Water, LLC ¦ 148 lbs phosphorus removed
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 ¦ Projects starting in 2022
Project Area: Williams-Barneveld Creek Watershed – 6 square miles (3,800 acres)
Working with Blues Mounds on the quantification of phosphorus reductions from implemented conservation practices.