Milwaukee River Watershed Project

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A West Branch of the Milwaukee River Watershed Project
designed to work with the Agricultural Community on 
 Nutrient Management and Water Quality

Sand County Foundation’s Agricultural Incentive Program has been working with Wisconsin farmers on agricultural conservation practices since 2003. Sand County Foundation is currently running a Nutrient Management/Water Quality project in the West Branch-Milwaukee River Watershed. The target area is shown on the following map.

West Branch Watershed Location Map


•  Gain a better understanding of the issues, Hills of the West Branch Watershed

•  Work with local people to identify the sources and importance of all types of non-point pollution(agricultural fields; storm water; non-farmed land including woodland, grasslands, etc), and

•  Work with producers, agency personnel and the citizens in this area to understand the benefits and risks of production agriculture, and provide research based solutions to the challenges facing landowners and operators.

Overall, to demonstrate, with tangible data, a relationship between
changes in land management and improvements in water quality.


•  Nutrient management plans without monetary commitment. Lost nitrogen and phosphorus equals lost money. Nutrient management plans can be an effective business tool for farmers, and help protect our streams and lakes atManure application near an In-Stream monitoring Site in the West Branch the same time. All participating farmers who operate land within the West Branch will be eligible to receive financial incentives for completing and/or providing a nutrient management plan for their operation. Waters hed staff and local professional consultants will work with you to update or maintain a current plan, write your own plan, or have a plan written for your operation. This plan will include soil tests, manure spreading plans, fertilizer recommendations for crop growth and soil fertility, and manure storage and spreading options for high risk periods. A financial incentive of $15/acre will be provided to farmers to prepare a new nutrient management plan using the SnapPlus software, and $8/acre to update an existing plan using the SnapPlus software. For more information contact Greg Olson, Project Coordinator.

•  Identify critical sites. All farmland is not created equal. Some fields and pastures are much more vulnerable than others to intense rainfall events and snowmelt. Runoff from these critical sites can have a disproportionate effect on the amount of sediment and nutrients that end up in the watershed. Critical sites must be quickly and accurately identified to begin land management changes to improve water quality.

•  Evaluate fields based on level of risk. Agricultural lands in the watersheds will be evaluated on the basis of risk levels for losses when nutrients are applied in the form of manure or commercial fertilizer. Detailed manure spreading plans will clarify what makes the field a risk. Risk factors include time of application, physical features, and current management practices.

•  Help farmers make changes that protect water quality. Producers must be engaged in the identification of practices that can West Branch Watershed Edge of Field Monitoring Sitereduce losses from their operation. Losses of nutrients and sediment, and negative or positive impacts on water quality resulting from land management practices will be determined by surface water monitoring in the watersheds. We have seen that when producers are shown tangible data showing that their farming operations contribute to degraded water quality, they make necessary changes to address the problem.



•  Nutrient management on critical sites. Two critical periods for runoff are late winter (Just prior to snowmelt) and when soil moisture exceeds 35 percent. Educational opportunities will provide farmers with helpful information and guidance on the right amounts of nutrients, right methods of application, right locations (critical sites) and the right times (critical periods).

•  The benefits of agriculture and natural resources in your rural community. Community members and farmers must work together to ensure economic viability and protection of natural resources. All interested parties will have a chance to learn about how different land management systems can affect the environment.


•  In-stream and edge-of-field water quality monitoring. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is our primary partner in providing reliable, unbiased research that will demonstrateLandowner in front of Edge of Field Monitoring during install changes in management practices and can result in fewer nutrients leaving the field through surface runoff. Sand County Foundation personnel have and continue to work with producers, county land conservation staff, and USGS to select sites for water quality monitoring stations at the edge of or within selected fields and in the watershed itself. In 2011, three In-Stream Monitoring Sites and two Edge of Field Monitoring Sites were installed and are in operation in the West Branch Watershed. Producers continue to be offered the opportunity to host the edge-of-field monitoring stations, which will provide data to help assist farmers to reduce waste of nutrients – a plus for their bottom line, and for the Milwaukee River too.


Project Coordinator: Greg Olson, 920-923-3033 ext 4667,


For more information about Sand County Foundation and their goals and activities please visit our website at