When on the water, protect marine life and the environment

Part of enjoying our local waterways is pitching in to keep them clean and healthy.
people picking up trash around a paddler
Illustration by Getty Images

Part of enjoying our local waterways is pitching in to keep them clean and healthy.

“When people are kayaking, or doing anything on the water, they need to be aware of how their actions can impact the lakes,” says Adam Sodersten of the Clean Lakes Alliance, an organization dedicated entirely to protecting the Yahara River Watershed. “It’s probably best that people think about the lakes before they even get into their kayaks.”

There are basic things paddlers can do to help protect marine life and the environment, like spraying down your boat before transferring to a new body of water, practicing “leave no trace” rules and doing your best to avoid disrupting the habitat of the creatures around (and below) the surface. But there’s plenty that environmentally minded Madisonians can do off the water, too.

“Everything that happens on the land will eventually impact the lakes,” says Sodersten. “In Madison, our storm sewers lead to the lakes, so anything that is on lawns or in streets can wash into the lakes.”

Sodersten suggests raking leaves out of the street ahead of a rainstorm (leaves hold phosphorus, which fuels blue-green algae blooms), holding stormwater on your property instead of pushing it into the street (rain barrels are helpful here), and generally staying aware that everything in your yard could wash into the lakes during a rainstorm. “The more people think about their own actions,” says Sodersten, “the better environmental stewards they will be.”

Other Madison-area groups putting in the work

River Alliance of Wisconsin
is working to hold public agencies accountable through grassroots action and science-driven programming to get people to care about our waterways. wisconsinrivers.org

Four Lakes Scuba Club
hosts open clean up dives to help tidy waterways that are heavily impacted by nearby activity and recreation. Folks who are scuba-licensed can rent gear and partake, even if they aren’t a club member. fourlakesscubaclub.org

Waterway Cleanup
Each year, the city of Fitchburg hosts a Waterway Cleanup event to spruce up Dunn’s Marsh Area, Quarry Hill Park, Swan Creek Park and the area along the Yarmouth Greenway. fitchburgwi.gov/2634/Waterway-Cleanups

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