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May 6, 2014

Volunteers, technology, help deliver clearer picture of water quality in Wisconsin waters

MADISON - A dedicated corps of citizen volunteers and improvements in databases and technology have enabled Wisconsin to check the health of more lakes than ever before, with more than two-thirds of the assessed lakes and rivers found to support the fishing and swimming they should be able to support, a newly released report shows.

"Thanks to the hard work and innovation by our staff, scientific partners and citizen volunteers, we have a clearer picture than ever of the health of Wisconsin's waters," says Susan Sylvester, who leads DNR's water quality programs.

"There is good news: most of the waters assessed are supporting the fishing and swimming they're expected to support," she says. "We will continue to work with local governments and partners to improve and protect these waters while focusing on those lakes and river segments where monitoring showed they are impaired."

Under the federal Clean Water Act, Wisconsin and other states must submit every two years to the federal government a report that summarizes current water quality conditions and describes the states' programs for monitoring those waters and for protecting and improving them.

Brian Weigel, who lead's DNR's water evaluation section, says that Wisconsin's 2014 Water Quality Report to Congress assesses a significantly greater number of waters than ever before. DNR staff, partnering scientists and citizen volunteers collect water samples and assess populations of fish, insects and other aquatic life to gauge the health of individual waters and to represent waters as a class. More than 1,200 volunteers collected data on 800 lakes; their information was used in conjunction with satellite imagery to predict water clarity on lakes that otherwise would not have been monitored.

"Wisconsin's creative approach to assessing its waters is recognized as an 'act to follow' among other state agencies," Sylvester says. "Wisconsin has an abundance of waters - more than 15,000 lakes, and 88,000 river miles, for starters, and our assessments help us understand where we are now, what we need to continue to improve, and trends we need to watch for the future."

The 22-page executive summary of the online report highlights the range of water quality monitoring and assessments DNR does for different purposes. Some waters are randomly selected for monitoring to help build a representative sample of lakes; others are targeted for monitoring because DNR suspects there might be potential problems because of historical pollution, as with harbors or along major industrial rivers.

Highlights include:

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Weigel, 608-266-9277

Last Revised: Tuesday, May 06, 2014

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