7 takeaways from GLA’s annual meeting

by Stephanie Prellwitz

The Green Lake Association (GLA) recently hosted its first-ever virtual annual meeting. 

Viewed by nearly 300 households, the GLA was excited to have their lake-loving message reach far and wide. 

For those unable to view the live premiere, that video is available on the Green Lake Association’s website at www.greenlakeassociation.com/annual-meeting. 

Here are seven of the event’s key takeaway messages: 

1) Phosphorus levels continue to climb. Record rainfall over the past five years has increased overall phosphorus loading to the lake by 25%. The lake is now eligible to be listed as impaired for high phosphorus levels, in addition to its current impaired listing for low dissolved oxygen (since 2014).

2) More phosphorus in than out means declining water quality for Green Lake. Phosphorus can become trapped as “legacy phosphorus” in streams, wetlands, and the lake bottom, where it can delay water quality improvements by decades. The GLA is currently working with University of Wisconsin-Madison to determine the amount and location of this legacy phosphorus for future targeted solutions. 

3) The GLA and lake management partners continue to install best management practices to keep phosphorus out of the lake. Green Lake is on a perpetual treadmill — where rain events and phosphorus loading outpaces lake-protecting projects. This means more projects have to be completed faster to stay in the same place in terms of Green Lake’s water quality. In order to see a larger impact on water quality, the scope and pace of best management practices will have be expanded and creative technologies and solutions will have to be considered. 

4) Researchers are narrowing in on the cause of Green Lake’s low dissolved oxygen zone. Phosphorus loading, particularly in the springtime, appears to be a key driver in setting off a chain of events that deplete dissolved oxygen levels. Weather conditions — including rainfall and water temperature — also play an important role in this worsening phenomenon. Cory McDonald from Michigan Technological University and Dale Robertson from the U.S. Geological Survey are studying Green Lake to help find solutions to improve this unique water quality problem. 

5) All lake problems and solutions are unique. Solutions cannot be copied and pasted from one lake to the next. That is why the GLA is engaging research partners — at UW-Madison, Michigan Technological University, Purdue University, the U.S. Geological Survey, and others—to better understand the lake’s unique challenges so we can develop science-backed strategies to eventually restore Green Lake’s water quality to “oligotrophic” conditions, like it was before. 

6) GLA members play a vital role in supporting lake-protecting work. It is important that everyone understands Green Lake’s challenges, and the solutions the GLA is pursuing to help care for the lake at the heart of the community. GLA membership, participation in the Shine a Light Celebration (being held on Aug. 1 in lieu of the in-person annual gala), and year-end contributions are all vital in supporting work that aims to protect, improve and ultimately restore Green Lake for future generations 

7) Community efforts to limit phosphorous loading to Green Lake are critical. Here are 5 immediate actions that help protect the lake:

• Limit fertilizer use on lawns & fields. 

• Clean up pet waste. 

• Don’t rake leaves into the road or lake. 

• Use rain barrels or install a rain garden.

• Eliminate bare soil spots in yards or fields. 

If you’d like to support the GLA in its efforts to protect Green Lake’s water quality, participate in the Shine a Light Celebration Aug. 1 by buying a ticket to receive your celebration bag, making a donation, or purchasing raffle tickets. Details at www.greenlakeassociation.org

Stephanie Prellwitz is the executive director for the Green Lake Association.