Water quality in Madison’s lakes is still a concern – what you can do to make a difference

MADISON, Wis. —  As portions of Wisconsin get much-needed rain, those who work with Madison’s lakes know with it will come more chances for contamination.

This week, PHMDC announced it’d be temporarily closing Esther Beach on Lake Monona, after storm runoff contaminated the water and made it unsafe to be in.

Clean Lakes Alliance founder James Tye says it’s not the first time this has happened.

We can get a lot of rain really quickly, and that’s really bad for lakes,” Tye said.  “That quick downpour forces everything and flushes everything into the lakes.”

Tye said phosphorus, which easily runs off from urban and rural areas alike, is a top concern.

Phosphorus goes into the lakes and creates the algae,” Tye said. “One pound of phosphorus equals 500 pounds of algae, that’s the biggest concern whether it’s algae growth or sometimes even a sign of bacteria growth.”

Earlier in June, another concern for the lakes was emphasized when the DNR issued a consumption warning for fish caught on the Yahara lake chain.

What we really need to do is that our federal and state standards need to be created to really figure out what’s acceptable and what’s not,” Tye said. “Those standards in place, and start enforcing that.”

As for phosphorus, he says taking actions like purchasing rain barrels or creating a rain garden can make a difference on a person-by-person basis.

We have all the tools to reduce phosphorus going in lakes,” he said. “It’s going to take everyone doing their part, but that is a fixable problem. We know where the phosphorus is coming from, we know what to do, we just need more people working on that to reduce the phosphorus in the lakes.”