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August 20, 2013

MADISON - Wisconsin has made significant progress in cutting phosphorus that contributes to the Gulf of Mexico dead zone and can achieve required reductions to the gulf and improve water quality at home by implementing existing regulations, according to a draft nutrient reduction strategy now available online and open for public comment through Sept. 18.

"This strategy gives the big picture of where Wisconsin is right now and what we need to do to continue with the state's overall improvement to water quality," says Jim Baumann, the Department of Natural Resources water resources engineer coordinating the effort. "We invite people to review the draft strategy. We want to hear from them on how we can all work together to improve water quality in our waters, which will also help water quality in the Gulf."

Wisconsin's Nutrient Strategy was developed by state, local and government agencies, business, industrial, agricultural and environmental groups over the past year in response to EPA's call for each state contributing to the Gulf dead zone to develop a nutrient-reduction framework. About two-thirds of Wisconsin drains into the Mississippi River system and the nutrients that Wisconsin and other states send down the river have resulted in oxygen levels so low in a part of the gulf that fish and other aquatic life can't survive.

Baumann says Wisconsin's draft strategy aims to first address nutrient-related surface water problems in Wisconsin lakes and streams. This in turn will help mitigate the causes of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

The draft strategy documents that Wisconsin's phosphorus contribution to the Mississippi River basin has decreased 23 percent since 1995 because of phosphorus removal efforts by municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants and through efforts to reduce phosphorus from farms, urban areas and other nonpoint sources. The state's phosphorus contribution to the Lake Michigan Basin has decreased an estimated 27 percent, the report says.

The draft strategy concludes that no new regulations for phosphorus are necessary for Wisconsin to meet the dead zone goal of reducing nutrient contributions to the Mississippi River by 45 percent, using 1995 as the base year. But to reach that target, Wisconsin must continue to implement existing requirements.

Excessive phosphorus levels in lakes and rivers can decrease the level of dissolved oxygen that fish and other aquatic creatures need to live, causing fish kills. The nutrient also can fuel excessive algal blooms and potentially produce blue-green algae, which can produce toxins harmful to animals and humans.

Comments will be accepted through Sept. 18 and may be e-mailed to Jim Baumann at

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jim Baumann, 608-261-6425

Last Revised: Tuesday, August 20, 2013

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