Oconomowoc River Monitoring

We don’t just talk about water quality at the Sand County Foundation. Sometimes we find ourselves waist-deep in it. Such is the case with our water monitoring project with the City of Oconomowoc.

We're collecting data on water quality and water levels in the Oconomowoc River, which runs through the southeastern Wisconsin city. The concern is excess phosphorus in the river.

In addition to having boots on the ground to collect monthly water samples to determine phosphorus concentrations at five locations, in-stream monitoring devices allow us to determine the volume of water passing each site through time. Every 20 minutes the devices record the river's depth, which alters frequently due to dam management and area lakes.

Our year-round monitoring goes above and beyond what is required by state regulators.

Collecting this data helps determine the total pounds of phosphorus moving past the five monitoring sites at any given time. Having this information allows the city to determine where and how to deal with phosphorus entering the river.

Dealing with phosphorus is the focus of a project between Oconomowoc and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Rather than making costly upgrades to the local wastewater treatment plant to remove phosphorus from the water, Oconomowoc is working directly with landowners and businesses to limit the amount of phosphorus entering the river in the first place.

Our monitoring work helps identify which areas offer the greatest bang for the buck by achieving cleaner water while saving money for taxpayers.

Now in the second of a five-year project, our work in Oconomowoc embodies an approach that Sand County Foundation has championed for decades: Environmental and economic benefits can be achieved through voluntary conservation approaches by private landowners.

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Photo of Oconomowoc River taken in rural Jefferson County, near one of the five monitoring locations.