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Citizen Lake Monitoring Network

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The Citizen Lake Monitoring Network, the core of the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership, creates a bond between over 1,000 citizen volunteers statewide and the DNR. Our goals are to collect high quality data, to educate and empower volunteers and to share this data and knowledge.

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 or watch for the first appearance of Eurasian Water Milfoil near boat landings.

In addition, satellite images are used to retrieve water clarity data for lakes across the state. This effort began in 1999 when the University of Wisconsin-Madison Environmental Remote Sensing Center (ERSC) developed a model for the retrieval of water clarity data from satellite images and Citizen Lake Monitoring Network volunteers provided on-the-ground Secchi data to calibrate this model for each satellite image. Water clarity data was retrieved for over 8,000 lakes statewide between 1999 and 2001. The DNR continues to analyze data in this way today in its remote sensing program.

Interested? Contact your local Citizen Lake Monitoring coordinator about getting started.

How Citizen Lake Monitoring Data is Used

National Information and Statewide Reporting

  • Water Quality reports to Congress: Citizen generated information is used every two years to report trends in Wisconsin lakes and to identify needs to the federal government.
  • Great American Secchi Dip-in: Citizen data is collected and analyzed with other data collected nationally to report lake clarity.

Lake and Basin Assessment and Planning

  • Numerous lake diagnostic and feasibility studies: Citizen data is used for before and after documentation, as well as to show severity of water quality problems and to set restoration goals. Examples include: Delavan Lake, Fox Lake, Bass Lake, Big Green Lake, and Devils Lake.
  • Annual condition reports to individual lake groups and media: Citizen data is summarized and presented annually by volunteers to lake organizations and to the local media to show water quality trends.
  • Watershed and Basin Plan preparation: Citizen lake data is summarized in tables and used to express lake water quality conditions and trends. This information is used to set priorities for lake protection, restoration, and funding.

Requests to Wisconsin Legislature

  • Request for a phosphorus water quality standard: Citizen data was used to show trophic status of WI lakes to demonstrate the need to limit the phosphorus being discharged from wastewater treatment facilities and to support a ban on phosphate detergents in WI. Legislation passed.
  • Request Aquatic Invasive Species Funding and Legislative Language: Volunteer data was utilized to help prepare statewide lists and maps of new invasions of zebra mussels and Eurasian Water milfoil in support of the department's request for funding and policy. We were successful in gaining $300,000 per year for watercraft inspection, invasive species education, monitoring and biological control of purple loosestrife; and strong legislation prohibiting the launching of watercraft with aquatic plants or zebra mussels attached.

Remote Sensing Research

  • Satellite water clarity retrieval: Satellite images are used to retrieve water clarity data for lakes across Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Environmental Remote Sensing Center (ERSC) and Citizen Lake Monitoring Network (CLMN) started their partnership in remote sensing research in 1999 when ERSC scientists developed a model for the retrieval of water clarity data from satellite images and CLMN volunteers collected on-the-ground Secchi depth data to calibrate this model for each satellite image. Water clarity data was retrieved for over 8,000 lakes statewide between 1999 and 2001. This remote sensing program continues today at the Wisconsin DNR where it provides satellite retrieved Secchi depth data for thousands of lakes annually with the support of CLMN volunteers.

Long Term Ecological Trends of Northern Temperate Lakes (Kathy Webster, Ph.D. UW-Madison)

  • This research used 11+ years of Self-Help data from a set of 50 Wisconsin Long Term Trend Lakes. The data was analyzed to look for trends in individual lakes over the 11-year period. In this research, only four lakes showed long-term trends in two or more water quality variables (Chlorophyll-a, Total Phosphorus, or Secchi Depth). However, significant inter-annual variation was observed.
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