The Present and Potential Future of the Yahara Lakes

The CFL's automated buoy records conditions in Lake Mendota 24/7. Photo: Hinterthuer
The CFL’s automated buoy records conditions in Lake Mendota 24/7. Photo: Hinterthuer

A recent spate of stories has folks in Madison talking about their lakes. The charge of limnological news is being led by The Cap Times and their reporter, Jessica VanEgeren, and Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reporter, Kate Golden. The series, called “Murky Waters,” began with a look at algal and bacterial water quality issues in Madison’s lakes. It expanded to include stories on manure digesters, spiny water fleas and lowered expectations, especially for the lower Yahara.
In a more optimistic vein, CFL faculty member, Emily Stanley, was featured in a Channel 3000 report looking at the promise of things like digesters and buffers to limit runoff into our waters and, perhaps, lead to “victory by a 1,000 band-aids.”
For a longer-term look at the future of our lakes, look no further than the Yahara 2070 project, a series of four plausible (though not entirely likely) scenarios that scientists are using to ask questions about where we’re headed.
Will technological advances save the Yahara watershed? Illustration: John Miller
Will technological advances save the Yahara watershed? Illustration: John Miller

Left unchecked, will phosphorous runoff turn the Yahara lakes into toxic cesspools and ruin Madison’s rankings in the ‘Best Places to Live’ contests? Or will a little Wisconsin ingenuity and technological advances save the day? Can we simply shrink our footprint and live more in harmony with natural cycles?  Or, will the government need to step in and heavily regulate things like water withdrawals and agricultural runoff?
We’ll have more on scenarios soon, but it’s a fun way to use science fiction to attempt to predict future facts. And, at the very least, it helps keep the Yahara Lakes in the public consciousness, receiving the attention they deserve.
 
 
 

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