Level 3

Photo submitted by Nancy Turyk
Program Status
  • Active
  • Seeking Volunteers

Nutrient Monitoring

Phosphorus is the most visible, widespread water pollutant in Wisconsin. High levels of phosphorus can trigger excess algae and plant growth in lakes and streams. When these excess plants die and decompose, oxygen levels drop dramatically and can lead to fish kills.

Streams act like conveyor belts, delivering phosphorus directly to lakes. Additionally, phosphorus is associated with excess sediments covering stream bottoms, the most common biological impairment in streams. Phosphorus in streams and lakes originates naturally from rocks, but its major sources today are usually associated with human activities: soil erosion, human and animal wastes, septic systems, detergents, and runoff from farmland or lawns.

An analysis of phosphorus often includes both total phosphorus and soluble reactive phosphorus. Volunteers will sample for total phosphorus, which is considered a better indicator of nutrient status because its levels remain more stable than soluble reactive phosphorus. Total phosphorus includes particulate phosphorus -- which is attached to bottom sediments and contained in plant and animal fragments suspended in water -- and soluble phosphorus. Soluble reactive phosphorus dissolves in water and readily aids plant growth, but its concentration varies widely over short time periods as plants take it up and release it.

The goal of this monitoring is to characterize the total phosphorus concentrations most commonly occurring in the streams during the primary algae and aquatic plant "growing season" of May through October.

new WAV has limited funding available for volunteers to request to monitor their sites for total phosphorus in 2019. The deadline is March 30, 2019 to apply. See details on the 2019 call for TP Monitoring page.

Ilana Haimes


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