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About Yahara 2070

Yahara 2070 is an exploration of potential futures for water, ecosystems, and people in Wisconsin’s Yahara Watershed. 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 incorporate 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.

Learn more about how we developed the Yahara 2070 scenarios.

The primary goal of Yahara 2070 is to understand a range of potential future conditions for the region’s ecosystem services, or the natural benefits people depend on, such as freshwater and food production. This information can highlight opportunities and challenges to building resilience for our communities and ecosystems.

Another goal is to encourage creative thinking and discussion about the region’s long-term future. The scenarios provide an organized way to think about possible changes, and could help the region's communities work toward a possible and desirable future.


While Yahara 2070 lays out only four futures, the real future will be a combination of innumerable possibilities. There is no worst- or best-case scenario, nor does the project team advocate for any particular future. There are benefits and costs associated with each of these future worlds, and as such, all four scenarios should be considered together.

Moreover, 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.

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 natural conditions important to their well-being. Yahara 2070 is an effort to help the region navigate these challenges now and into the future, and the lessons learned are applicable to similar regions throughout the Midwest U.S.