Fixing Phosphorus: How Adaptive Management Can Solve a Nutrient Dilemma

Fixing Phosphorus: How Adaptive Management Can Solve a Nutrient Dilemma

In Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, watershed partners have united in an effort to reduce both point and non-point phosphorus discharges. Find out how this first-of-its-kind program is changing the phosphorus discussion for wastewater treatment plants.

“We have a very clear goal,” says Tom Steinbach, operations manager at the Oconomowoc wastewater treatment plant and program director of the OWPP. “By the end of the third permit term (15 years), we need to be at .075 mg/L phosphorus at the confluence of the Rock and Oconomowoc rivers.”

To achieve that, the OWPP has reached out and involved various partner organizations. Steinbach says major partners include the Tall Pines Conservancy, the local Clean Water Association and the consulting firm of Ruekert and Mielke. The plan includes more than 30 partners, including local lake associations, nonprofits such as the Ice Age Trail organization, environmental groups, other consulting firms, county land and water management groups, and private land owners. The partners help with funding, volunteers, public awareness and in-kind services.

“We’ve been able to build a partnership in our watershed with a lot of folks who are concerned with environmental quality, wildlife and water quality,” Steinbach says. “We’re blessed to have this base of folks.”

Here’s how the partnership was formed:

First, facing more stringent phosphorus limits in its upcoming discharge permit, as well as a new stormwater permit, Oconomowoc looked at several options including brick-and-mortar and effluent trading before deciding the adaptive management approach was the best choice for phosphorus compliance. Then, they gained approval from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and received federal funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The plan is one of the first of its kind to be approved and funded in the United States. Finally, starting in 2014, Oconomowoc solicited participation via a letter of invitation to other organizations, held meetings, got organized, and set goals and projects to meet them.

Source : TPO