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Public Participation in Water Quality Assessments

Wisconsin lakes and rivers are public resources, owned in common by all Wisconsin citizens under the state's Public Trust Doctrine. The DNR manages the state's surface waters for over 5.5 million Wisconsin residents. When assessing surface waters the public is involved in multiple ways.

Data collection

The DNR partners with over a thousand citizen volunteers to collect surface water quality data.

Citizen Lake Monitoring Network (CLMN) – Volunteers measure water clarity using the Secchi Disk method as an indicator of water quality. Volunteers may also collect chemistry, temperature and dissolved oxygen data, as well as identify and map plants.

Water Action Volunteers Stream Monitoring Program (WAV) [exit DNR] – Volunteers participate in three levels of monitoring in the WAV program: Introductory (Level 1), Status and Trends (Level 2) and Special Projects Monitoring (Level 3). Water quality indicators monitored by volunteers in streams of Wisconsin include dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, transparency, streamflow, habitat, macroinvertebrates, specific conductance, chloride, total phosphorus and E. coli.

Both volunteer monitoring programs provide training and the data collected are used in assessments where appropriate.

Public comment periods

Public comments are a cornerstone of DNR work. For surface water quality, the public is asked for their input on the assessment guidance (WisCALM) and assessment results (Water Condition Lists).

The public is also invited to comment on administrative rule updates. The DNR is currently conducting rulemaking on several topics related to surface water quality. More information is available on the Water quality standards rule updates page.

Additional public input opportunities

Data solicitation periods

During the first year of the assessment cycle, DNR requests that citizens and interested groups submit their surface water data (biological, chemical and physical). Data meeting specified requirements will be evaluated, along with DNR-collected data, to assess the quality of the state's water resources. In accordance with the Clean Water Act, the DNR uses these assessments to prepare a statewide Integrated Water Quality Report to Congress (the "Integrated Report"), which includes an updated list of impaired waters.

The DNR is especially interested in data that:

  • documents improvement due to implementation of pollution control practices;
  • documents healthy waters;
  • supports planning for restoration or protection of water bodies;
  • identifies public health risks;
  • is from water bodies in the Fox River (Southeast) basin, or Grant, Platte, Sugar or Pecatonica River basins; and
  • could be used for water quality criteria development in addition to assessments.

You may submit any type of data, but a synopsis of data of particular interest to DNR is shown in the following table, including a summary of minimum data requirements.

Specific data requirements must be met for DNR to assess your data. More detailed guidance on minimum data requirements and how DNR evaluates the data is available in the Wisconsin Consolidated Assessment and Listing Methodology (WisCALM).

Prepare Your Data

To enable the DNR to efficiently process public data, data must be prepared and submitted to DNR electronically in specific Excel spreadsheet formats, along with quality assurance documentation. Data received as PDF files or in other hard copy formats will not be entered into the Excel spreadsheets by DNR staff and may not be assessed.

The following four required elements must be either emailed or mailed on CD to DNR.

  1. A quality assurance plan describing protocols followed.
  2. Data in the following specified Excel spreadsheet formats:
  3. For any stations that do not have a DNR SWIMS Station ID number, you must provide locational information in the following specified Excel spreadsheet format: Locational Template [XLSX]
  4. Complete contact information for the submitter, including:
    • full name;
    • mailing address;
    • affiliation;
    • phone number(s); and
    • email address(es).

If you are providing water chemistry data from a lab (total phosphorus, chlorophyll-a) you may be required to submit additional information. A template for that data submittal can be requested through the contact email address.

Send Your Data

Email your files to or send via mail to Ashley Beranek, DNR, Water Quality Program - WQ/3, 101 S Webster St, Madison, WI 53707.