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Wisconsin 2014 Integrated Report

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Wisconsin's 2014 Water Quality Report to Congress Executive SummaryLake St. Croix, Wisconsin.

Wisconsin hosts bountiful natural resources, including a variety of lakes, streams, wetlands, aquifers, and springs. Wisconsin's 2014 online Water Quality Report to Congress ("2014 Integrated Report") provides descriptions of water quality programs, emerging issues and new initiatives, and summary reports of water quality conditions dynamically linked to WDNR's databases. The executive summary report highlights the process and results of this 2014 Biennial Water Quality Report to Congress. The Water Quality Report to Congress fulfills Clean Water Act reporting requirements under Sections 303(d), 305(b), 314, and 319. Every other year, WDNR assembles this report to convey the state's water condition status and trends to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), which in turn shares this information with the United States Congress. Executive Summary for the 2014 Clean Water Act Report to Congress. [PDF].

Key Ideas in 2014:

  • Wisconsin has made great strides in assessing a greater number of waters in the state. Through the combined use of careful study design, systematic assessment protocols, and innovative information technology tools that expedite the assessment and documentation process, more rivers, streams and lakes have been assessed in this 2014 cycle than in previous cycles.

    • In the area of rivers and streams, the Water Program has used a random stratified sample design to select its monitoring sites for river and stream condition. [PDF]. This study design provides data for "representative" stream conditions based on factors including the 'natural community' (temperature and flow characteristics of the stream), ecoregion, and other key variables. Experts have analyzed results from a multi-year study show to find that most severe, and statistically significant stressors to macroinvertebrate condition (ie., degraded biological condition) are elevated total phosphorus concentrations, low dissolved oxygen levels, and degraded physical habitat. The most severe, and statistically significant, stressors to fish condition in the study were degraded physical habitat and low dissolved oxygen levels. In addition to these key findings, the study highlighted an optimal number of sites needed to represent conditions which will reduce the number of monitoring locations needed. By reducing the number of sites monitored, experts are will be able to collect a richer array of data at each site, which will provide greater information about the resource. More about the state's natural community random stratified sample design and results can be found in this River and Stream Monitoring Presentation [PDF]..

    • The number of assessed waters in Wisconsin (see distribution of assessed water in USEPA 5-Part Categorization) also jumped dramatically this year due to greater use of automated analysis, systematic decision making, and investments in information technology tools. For example, the Department uses a customized "assessment package" that generates trophic state index values (TSI values) for lakes in the state. TSI values are usually ascertained by comparing the results of sample data against a set of condition thresholds derived from Carlson's Trophic Status Index. However, as in other states such as Michigan and Minnesota, Wisconsin routinely processes TSI values extrapolated from statellite imagery correlated with secchi depth readings gathered by Citizen Lake Monitor Network volunteers. These data are used to calculate general assessments for fish and aquatic life use assessments for lakes. This method provided the state with over 6,000 new lake assessments in 2014, bringing the number of lakes assessed to nearly 85%. This is an extraordinary accomplishment, particularly given the magnitude of waters in the state and the technical work involved in the analysis.

      Lakes Assessment 2008 v 2014

    • In addition to the random stratfied sample work and the satellite imagery work for lakes, in 2014 water quality attainment analyses for rivers and streams using a more automated approach for biological indicators also took a great leap forward. Using assessment protocols programmed into the DNR's fish database, its SWIMS database, and its assessment database (WATERS), more rivers and streams were to analyzed for biological use condition than in any previous year to date. Experts matched matched calculations from fish surveys, such as the cold water index of biological integrity, and an analysis of aquatic macroinvertebrates (aquatic insects) to the type of stream that was sampled to make condition determinations on hundreds of miles of waters never before analyzed.

    • Federal/State partnership efforts were used to design and implement cost-effective monitoring protocols that accurately gaged the health of Wisconsin's waters. USEPA and DNR collaborated on the conduct of two pilot studies carried out to optimize the number, type and intensity of monitoring sites in a given catchment or hydrologic area to best understand the quality or condition of surface water using the least human power and funding possible. The two studies in the Pecatonica and Yellow River Watersheds, are posted on the 2014 Integrated Report website.

    • Far reaching progress to has been made to support the development and implementation of TMDLs in the state, including outstanding work on development of the Wisconsin River TMDL, far-reaching partnership outreach on the Rock River Recovery Plan, and the creation of procedures, guidelines and protocols for the issuance of WPDES permits and alternative measures such as adaptive management and water quality trading, for impaired waters, as well as new procedures and rules created to support the statewide variance on phosphorus limits now in effect.

    • The long-standing collaboration between Science Services and the Bureaus of Water Quality and Fisheries has created an entirely new, innovative approach to the assignment of stream natural communities using a temperature and stream flow model (with an abundance of additional attributes) which guides water quality specialists in the assessment of water condition. Scientists have identified customized fish indices of biological integrity to coincide with specific natural community assignments from the stream model. Predicted temperature and flow "windows" coincide with an expected assemblage of fish species. When biologists study the water and fail to find the fish species predicted by the model, they go through a model assignment validation process to decide whether to adjust the natural community based on landscape and weather variables or to rate the stream condition value as "poor" (due to the paucity or differences in fish species found at the site). The use of highly customized fish indices, along with Wisconsin's own stream macroinvertebrate index of biological integrity, has revolutionized and systematized Wisconsin's approach to water quality biological condition assessments. This work is cutting edge and places our state among very few in the nation with such an automated science-based and information technology savvy assessment and reporting framework.

    • Significant efforts to implement the phosphorus rule through enhanced outreach (nutrient strategy), monitoring and assessment protocols for this 2014 report. Key protocols include desktop gap analyses, use of volunteer monitoring support for data collection, and automated phosphorus packages that conduct statistical analyses of multi-year evaluations of phosphorus on streams against existing ambient river and stream standards. This work has led to recommended listings for waters that fail to meet water quality standards. This conservative yet protective approach to identify and declare waters impaired, and to highlight future waters for further analyses, was a significant workload that fulfilled water quality strategic plan goals and performance measures [PDF]..
Last revised: Tuesday May 30 2017