Waterline Renewal Technologies

Phosphorus Reduction in the Great Lakes


The Great Lakes contain 20 percent of the world’s available fresh surface water supply. Because of that, the Great Lakes are critical to the health and welfare of all the Great Lakes states. Effective management of both wetland and water quantity and quality is necessary. Phosphorus has long been recognized as the controlling factor in plant and algae growth in Wisconsin lakes and streams. Small increases in phosphorus can fuel substantial increases in aquatic plant and algae growth, which in turn can reduce property values, and public health. There are significant but varying techniques for reduction.

Phosphorus trading and adaptive management are two different approaches. Both allow for reductions within the watershed. Because the practices used to generate phosphorus reductions may be the same, these compliance options are often confused with one another. Adaptive management focuses on achieving water quality criterion for phosphorus in the surface water; trading focuses on offsetting phosphorus from a discharge to comply with a permit limit.  Some of the qualities of adaptive management include: permittee improves water quality in a watershed by reducing in-stream concentrations. Permit compliance is demonstrated by reducing in-stream concentrations and eventually achieving phosphorus water quality criteria, typically for compliance only. For water quality trading, the permittee purchases “credits” in the watershed to achieve permit compliance. Permit compliance is demonstrated by comparing permittee discharge data, available credits and permit limits. This can be used to comply with a number of pollutants.

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