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Keeping It Blue

Keeping It Blue: Lake task force looks back on a successful first year

It’s been a busy first year for the Geneva Lake Task Force. Here are some updates on our progress and our plan forward.

The task force is re-branding. The task force decided last month to rename itself the “Water Alliance for Preserving Geneva Lake.” Why? Put simply, there are too many organizations in the area whose name begins with “Geneva Lake:” Geneva Lake Environmental Agency, Geneva Lake Association, Geneva Lake Conservancy, Geneva Lake Level Corp., etc.

To avoid further confusion and more accurately describe our work, we are now the Water Alliance.

What is the Water Alliance’s purpose? The Water Alliance is an ad hoc group of volunteers and professional people who have an interest in preserving the water quality of Geneva Lake. While the lake continues to enjoy an excellent reputation, it takes work to preserve (and even improve) it.

Virtually all recreational and economic value in the area ultimately derives from the lake itself. But our water — good as it may be — is under stress: abnormal rainfall, serious erosion, fertilizers, increase in boat traffic from other lakes, invasive species, and more development (residential, commercial, agriculture) all have the potential to impact this pristine resource.

Who’s involved? Through their work with the Geneva Lake Conservancy, Charles Colman and Tom Nickols serve as founders and co-chairs. Ted Peters with the Geneva Lake Environmental Agency also serves in an important role. Last year, as a variety of new problems developed around the lake, the conservancy realized that it would take more than one person or organization to solve them. The Water Alliance now includes representatives from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Walworth County Conservation Office, local municipalities, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, fish and game wardens, state legislators, as well as the conservancy, Geneva Lake Level Corp. and the Geneva Lake Association.

The Water Alliance is informal, with no charter and no authority. Instead, the group was formed to raise and elevate awareness of various issues facing the lake, and to use the expertise of its members to work together to address them. The Water Alliance aims to accelerate coordination among all these regulators, policy makers, local officials and interested citizens.

What has the Water Alliance done so Far? The Water Alliance is:

Working with the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Plan Commission to study tributaries that may be carrying high levels of phosphorus into the lake, so that a long-term management plan can be developed.

Investigating boat cleaning equipment/strategies to remove invasive species at the boat launches.

Raising awareness on starry stonewort and supporting DNR/GLEA’s removal and mitigation efforts.

Securing funding for three farmers in the watershed to plant cover crops that will reduce agricultural runoff.

Working with the county and DNR to further identify and correct point sources of pollution in the watershed.

Coordinating the “Keeping it Blue” column in the Lake Geneva Regional News to draw attention to a wide variety of issues affecting water quality in the watershed.

Preparing a plan for next year’s priorities.

Interested in volunteering? If you are interested in devoting some of your time and talent to preserving Geneva Lake, please contact Karen Yancey at

“Keeping It Blue” is written by Geneva Lake Task Force members to inform and educate the public about water quality and other issues impacting Geneva Lake and how the public can help to address them. Comments and questions can be sent to

Mark Lillie is president of the Geneva Lake Association and a member of the task force, now known as the Water Alliance for Preserving Geneva Lake.

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