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About Yahara 2070

Yahara 2070 is an exploration of potential futures for ecosystems and human well-being in Wisconsin’s Yahara Watershed, with a focus on freshwater sustainability. It is a research effort of the Water Sustainability and Climate Project at UW-Madison to better understand the long-term impacts of social and environmental change in the region.

Yahara 2070 entails a set of four scenarios about the Yahara Watershed in the year 2070, which were constructed with scientific knowledge, public participation, computer models, stories, and art. Each explores a different way the region could respond to freshwater challenges and the consequences for communities and ecosystems.

The primary goal of Yahara 2070 is to understand the range of potential conditions for the region’s ecosystem services, or the benefits that people derive from nature, such as freshwater, food production, and recreation. This information can help communities and decision makers prepare for change and work toward a desirable future.

While Yahara 2070 lays out only four futures, the real future will likely be a combination of innumerable possibilities. No scenario portrays an ideal watershed, nor does the project team advocate for any particular future.

Each scenario has distinctive advantages and disadvantages. Readers should consider all four scenarios together and weigh the benefits and costs of living in each of these imagined future worlds.

The scenarios do not answer every question about the future. In fact, they may raise more questions.

The Yahara 2070 scenarios are unique in terms of scale and perspective. Few environmental scenario projects have examined change at the scale of a single watershed. Also, the research team brings together a diversity of perspectives, with expertise in limnology, hydrology, natural resource governance, landscape ecology, cropping systems, and climate science.

Through Yahara 2070, the project team hopes to encourage creative thinking and discussion about the region’s long-term future. The scenarios provide a tangible way to think about possible change, and could help Yahara's communities work toward a possible and desirable future.


About the Yahara Watershed

The Yahara Watershed is the region in southern Wisconsin that shares a chain of lakes: Mendota, Monona, Waubesa and Kegonsa. It is home to roughly 370,000 people, the state capital, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and 170,000 acres of some of the United States' most productive farmland.

As a region where agriculture and urban life coexist, complex and changing interactions between people, land, water, and climate present an array of challenges for Yahara’s communities and the numerous natural conditions important to their well-being. Yahara 2070 is an effort to help the region navigate these challenges now and into the future.