Effects of Administrative Code NR151 on Phosphorus Levels in Wisconsin Water Bodies
University of Wisconsin--Stout
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n the surface, many issues that society faces seem to have simple solutions. However, as we continue down the road of technological advancement, modern life becomes more complex and solutions may not be what they seem. Throughout the summer, I have had the opportunity to work alongside seven incredible women from many academic disciplines to find an interdisciplinary approach that will allow us to keep our fresh water bodies swimmable and fishable for generations to come. In Wisconsin, we have a long and proud tradition of “doing what needs to be done”. We also benefit from a midwestern sense of community and a fierce gratitude for natural resources that provide our way of life. This attitude gives us a unique opportunity to combat problems and create policies together in the hopes for a more community-oriented solution. The Red Cedar Watershed, home to some of the most genuine and enthusiastic people I have ever encountered, has been fighting against nutrient pollution that creates algal blooms in our fresh water bodies for decades. Water pollution touches us all, so it is something that will take all of us to make a change. Through local lake associations and other groups, we have a lot of dedicated individuals that are willing to be part of the solution. Creating policy and informing the community from the ground up and with everyone in mind is something that could go a long way in the fight for our water resources. This summer, I was fortunate to get a closer view of the policies that help to reduce runoff and water pollution in our state. Specifically, I looked at the NR151, a policy which is not known to all, but is a keystone in the fight against water pollution in Wisconsin. The NR151 was created to regulate nonpoint urban and agricultural runoff in Wisconsin. In 2010, this policy was updated to go beyond the federal Clean Water Act to create one of the strictest approaches to water quality management in the nation. Since the NR151 is not specific to one industry, it is important that we view this issue with an “all hands-on-deck” mentality. Farmers, elected officials, and urbanites alike have the power to come together to reduce the input of nutrients into our water bodies. With the help and dedication of my mentor Dr. Zach Raff and my enthusiastic research partner and new-found friend, Monica, I was able to apply the skills I have learned in the classroom to tackling an important policy question. We wanted to examine the NR151 policy and see if these strict approaches were having their intended benefit of reduced nutrient levels in surface water bodies. Throughout the summer, I used econometric techniques to analyze the NR151 policy. We found a causal relationship between the NR151 regulations and a reduction in phosphorus levels in Wisconsin surface water bodies, meaning that the policy is working how it was envisioned. However, the phosphorus decreases have been modest, so more work is needed before labeling NR151 a “success”. As a UW-Stout student, I have had exposure to the problems of Lake Menomin since I started school here in 2014. However, before I entered the LAKES program, I had limited information on what exactly the problem was, and how we should go about finding a solution. Through my time with the program, I have learned many things about the science behind water pollution in our state that I never would have been able to identify on my own. I have also learned that behind all the scientific definitions and complexities, there is a need for a dedicated community to come together and create a sustained system for ecosystem conservation. Although policy is not the only approach that can be taken, and we still have a long way to go if we are to successfully clean up our water bodies, policy-driven approaches are incredibly valuable to the community because they are something that can work in tandem with other, more technologically advanced approaches that may come.
Applied Social Science at University of Wisconsin-Stout