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Lakes Health

Citizen Lake Monitoring Network

Monitoring Objectives

The Citizen Lake Monitoring Network, the core of the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership, creates a bond between over 1000 citizen volunteers statewide and the Wisconsin DNR. The goals are to collect high quality trophic status data, to complete water quality assessments on lakes, to educate and empower volunteers, and to share this data and knowledge.

Monitoring Design

Lake selection has primarily been driven by volunteer interest. Approximately 900 lakes are monitored each year for Secchi depth, and the number of "Secchi lakes" continues to increase. Approximately 550 lakes are sampled for water chemistry, and 360 lakes for dissolved oxygen. Water chemistry lakes range in area from 6 – 23,000 acres, with a median area of 213 acres.

Given the costs associated with water chemistry analysis, lake selection for water chemistry is under review. Currently, once a lake begins monitoring water chemistry, it continues indefinitely. Although long-term data are useful, WDNR recommends freeing up resources to allow water chemistry sampling on more lakes. A subset of lakes will be retained for long-term records and the remaining lakes will be committed for 2 years of sampling (minimum needed for assessment) with the possibility to extend monitoring for more years. This will enable WDNR to assess more lakes and align CLMN more closely with other lake monitoring activities (e.g., Directed Lakes and Targeted Watersheds Assessments). Capacity to train and coordinate new volunteers, volunteer satisfaction, record length, and management activities on individual lakes must be considered to decide how many lakes will be monitored short-term. For example, 277 of CLMN lakes with at least 10 years of data could be retained for long-term monitoring (Figure 16). All volunteers collecting Secchi data should continue their efforts as long as possible.

Water Quality Indicators

Volunteers measure water clarity using a Secchi disk. This information is then used to determine the lake's trophic state. A subset of volunteers also collects water temperature and dissolved oxygen profiles, and total phosphorus and chlorophyll a from the epilimnion. They adhere to the same protocols as the LTT Lakes program, but do not collect a spring water sample. In addition, volunteers on approximately 300 lakes watch for the first appearance of AIS such as Eurasian Water Milfoil and zebra mussels.

Quality Assurance

    o Field Protocols
    o Wisconsin Citizen Lake Monitoring Manual - Water Quality (3rd Edition revised 2009)
    o Wisconsin Citizen Lake Monitoring Manual - Chemistry Procedures (3rd Ed revised 2013)
    o Wisconsin Citizen Lake Monitoring Manual - AIS monitoring (revised 2014)
    o Replicates and blanks on 10% of samples
    o Quality Assurance Sampling Protocol – CLMN – 2013
    o Training
    o SLOH QA Processes
    o SWIMS Data flow QA checks and Data Management

Data Management

Field data from the Citizen Lake Monitoring Network is hand-entered into the SWIMS database by the collector. Chemistry data analyzed in the laboratory is sent to the State Laboratory of Hygiene and entered by staff at the lab. These data are reviewed and proofed by the CLMN database file manager as well as the collectors of the data.


Citizen Lake Monitoring Network data are accessed from Wisconsin DNR's Lakes Pages where cumulative datasets, downloads, and summary graphs and reports are available as soon as the data are entered into the SWIMS database. All CLMN data are also used in the biennial Water Quality Report to Congress.

Programmatic Evaluation

The CLMN program is undergoing a thorough review during 2014-2015. The Advisory Panel includes WDNR staff, UW-Extension staff, and board members from the Wisconsin Lakes Association, county, tribal staff, and citizen volunteers.

Last revised:

Tuesday May 30 2017