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More than 80% of Wisconsin's lakes and rivers recently assessed are healthy. - Photo credit: DNR
More than 80% of Wisconsin's lakes and rivers recently assessed are healthy.Photo credit: DNR

Contact(s): Ashley Beranek, 608-267-9603,
October 15, 2019

MADISON, Wis. - More than 80% of Wisconsin's lakes and rivers recently assessed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources are healthy, continuing a trend of improved surface water quality across the state. This good news comes as we celebrate the Year of Clean Drinking Water, an initiative introduced by Gov. Tony Evers earlier this year.

However, while the majority are in good condition and are now on the Healthy Waters List, 120 new waterbodies or segments are now classified as impaired. The department is seeking public comment on these new listings beginning Oct. 15.

"For the first time, we are using two water quality lists to categorize impairment listings, the Impaired Waters List and the Restoration Waters List, which aligns our methods with those of our neighboring states," said DNR Surface Water Quality Assessment Coordinator Ashley Beranek. A total of 142 new pollutant listings are proposed, 17 of which are on the new Restoration Waters List and 125 are on the Impaired Waters List. A waterbody can have multiple pollutant listings, and some of the new listings are on waters already identified as impaired. Of the 120 newly listed waterbodies, 14 will be placed directly on the Restoration Waters List because an existing restoration plan covers them.

The 2020 draft of the Impaired Waters List contains 1,546 listings. Placing waters on the Impaired Waters List indicates that they require a restoration plan and may also make them eligible for state and federal cleanup funds, which can help speed improvements. The Restoration Waters List, with 463 listings, includes those that already have an EPA-approved plan. Defining the Impaired Waters List in this way also allows for highlighting restoration progress.

Simultaneously, 116 listings will be removed, including 84 waterbody segments due to a cleanup of residual mercury listings.

The department is soliciting public comments regarding the new listings. Provide written comments to Ashley Beranek, Water Quality, Department of Natural Resources, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707, or by email to by Nov. 22.

The water condition lists are submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency every even-numbered year in accordance with the Clean Water Act. The department follows standard procedures to assess waterbodies against water quality standards. These procedures are known as Wisconsin Consolidated Assessment and Listings Methods (WisCALM).

The 2020 lists and other materials can be found on the DNR website by searching for "impaired waters."

Last Revised: Tuesday, October 15, 2019

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