Regional goals for the Great Lakes

Through Blue Accounting, experts collaborate to track progress toward shared goals for key issues affecting the Great Lakes. Below is what we are currently tracking for Wisconsin.

Prevent the introduction of new aquatic invasive species

Progress is reported by metric

Detect and respond to new introduction of aquatic invasive species

in development

Control established aquatic invasive species to reduce negative impacts

in development

Protect sources of drinking water

Progress will be reported by metric

Meet treatment requirements

Progress will be reported by metric

Distribute safe water

Progress will be reported by metric

Additional information about Wisconsin

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)
The state of Wisconsin has three main goals regarding aquatic invasive species. The first goal is to prevent the introduction of new AIS in the Great Lakes basin and Wisconsin. This is done through education and outreach; Wisconsin DNR works with partners to make people aware of the importance of AIS prevention measures. Wisconsin DNR recently has implemented this goal through pathway intervention and local network programs (“pathways” are human assisted ways that AIS enter and disperse in waters and can include maritime commerce, recreational activities, non-recreational fishing and aquaculture, and the trade of live organisms). Pathway intervention will help make new pathway users aware of AIS and help block new introductions of AIS into the Great Lakes basins and the state. The second goal is to contain the spread of AIS in the Great Lakes basin by detecting new species quickly and conducting appropriate response actions. Wisconsin DNR continues to expand early detection and surveillance monitoring within the department and through the new local network programs. The third goal is to control existing population of AIS to minimize harmful impacts. Wisconsin DNR shares its experiences with control actions and provides technical assistance to enhance local networks to better manage existing populations. For additional information, refer to Wisconsin’s Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan and Wisconsin’s Invasive Species Rule, Wis. Admin. Code NR 40.

Drinking Water
Wisconsin DNR continues to proactively engage with public water utilities in an effort to protect, quantify, and minimize the impacts of harmful algal blooms which can result from increased nutrient loading to lakes. Wisconsin DNR has collaborated with surface water systems and the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene to conduct microcystin, algal toxin, and cyanobacteria studies on Lake Winnebago water systems. Wisconsin DNR has also used grant funding from EPA to evaluate the role of nutrient pollution and develop models to quantify the effect of proposed management actions designed to reduce harmful algal bloom intensity and frequency at Wisconsin surface water systems. Monitoring from the Lake Winnebago study and cyanotoxin monitoring completed as a part of the EPA’s Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 4 showed no detects of cyanotoxins in the finished water of the Wisconsin surface water systems, highlighting the capabilities of existing treatment techniques to remove cyanotoxin contaminants, which may be present in the raw water.

Wisconsin adopted phosphorus standards in 2010, incorporating water quality based limits into wastewater permits along with subsequent enabling of innovative permit compliance strategies, including adaptive management and water quality trading. Under adaptive management, permitted facilities may work with landowners, municipalities or counties in their watershed to reduce non-point pollution in lieu of costly facility upgrades. Leadership by the Great Lakes Commission was instrumental in developing Wisconsin’s water quality trading framework, with the first successful trade occurring in 2021. Wisconsin DNR developed specific rules (NR 243) for WPDES permitting of large dairy operations (CAFOs), and all farms regardless of size are required to comply with agricultural standards.

Wisconsin DNR approved 9 key element plans for the state’s highest loading sub-watersheds to support TMDL implementation in the Lower Fox River Basin and Lower Green Bay Phosphorus TMDL (2012) (2012). Recognizing that approximately 50% of the load in the Lower Fox River comes from Lake Winnebago, WDNR developed the Upper Fox Wolf TMDL (approved in 2020), and multiple 9 key element plans are nearing approval. Counties within these basins collaborate by sharing expertise and staff resources.  In the Lake Superior Basin, the Lake Superior Collaborative is leading efforts to establish the “Slow the Flow” initiative to minimize sediment and nutrient loading into Lake Superior.

Climate Change
Wisconsin DNR is a partner with the UW-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies in leading the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI). WICCI’s goals are to evaluate climate change impacts on Wisconsin and foster solutions. In fall 2019, Governor Tony Evers launched the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change through Executive Order #52. WICCI subsequently published a report in September 2020, Report to the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change: Strategies to Improve Wisconsin’s Climate Resilience and Readiness. To read about examples highlighting how resiliency has been incorporated in Great Lakes projects, check out the article “Lakes for the long run:

Working together to build resiliency” in the Wisconsin DNR’s 2021 special report, “Wisconsin’s Great Lakes: Vital Assets to Cherish and Champion.”

What we do

Blue Accounting is an information service to track the region’s progress toward shared goals for the Great Lakes. Maintained by the Great Lakes Commission, the information developed by Blue Accounting helps elected officials make sure that policies and programs are effective at protecting the largest fresh surface water system on earth.

What we measure

The Great Lakes Commission’s Blue Accounting team works with experts to identify goals and methods to track progress on key Great Lakes issues. Currently, Blue Accounting is tracking progress on protecting the region from aquatic invasive species and keeping phosphorus out of Lake Erie.