Land use in Dane County is primarily agriculture (48%), open land (16%), and forest (12%). Below, explore the changes in land use from 1990 to 2015 and compare that to what communities have planned for the future. Agriculture in the region is expected to decrease, while open land and residential uses are expected to increase.

Photo By: Mike Kakuska

Land Use

1990, 2015 and Planned Future Use
  • Each color represents a land use type in Dane County
  • Hover over each box to see the area for each land use, its percentage, and how that percentage has changed since 1990.

Full Screen Data Source: 2015 data is available on the Dane County DCiMap. To see 2015 land use within individual watersheds visit the Watersheds page. The 1990 and future land use datasets are maintained by CARPC. 

There is a strong relationship between land use and water quality. Nonpoint source pollution from land uses, such as agriculture, roads or residences, each impact our region's waters in unique ways. Application of fertilizer and salt can degrade surface and groundwater quality. Planning the location and intensity of future development so that water resources stay protected benefits the entire region.

Regional planning must utilize land use planning and management to limit pollution and protect important environmental resources from the impacts of urban development, rural land uses, and agricultural practices. Cost-effective sewer service areas (ones that concentrate urban development and avoid sprawl) and protection of environmentally sensitive areas are important considerations for regional land use planning.

Areawide water quality management plans are required to address the relationship between water resources and land use. This incorporates evaluation of existing and projected land use patterns, delineation of sewer service areas, and designation of areas that should not be developed or disturbed because of resource value or other environmental or physical constraints.

The Capital Area Regional Planning Commission and a public-private coalition are working to update the Dane County Land Use and Transportation Plan from 1997. This initiative, A Greater Madison Vision, works to establish a shared vision and plan for future regional growth.

Regional Development

Regional development is planned through designation of Sewer Service Areas, Environmental Corridors and Open Space

  • Zoom to urban areas to explore Sewer Service Area and Environmental Corridor boundaries
  • Zoom to rural areas and Resource Protection Corridors will appear
  • Click the Layer List in the legend to turn layers on and off
    • Once selected, zoom in to see Land Use  in 2015
  • Search an address by clicking on the magnifying glass

Sewer Service Areas are composed of two types:
Urban Service Areas (USA)
  • These provide boundaries for planned urban development
  • Services provided include: public water supply and distribution, sanitary sewer, police and fire protection, solid waste collection, stormwater drainage, street lighting, sidewalks and mass transit
  • Learn more about planning, delineating, and revising Urban Service Areas
Limited Service Areas (LSA)
  • For areas where only one or a few urban services (such as sanitary sewer service) are provided to accommodate special or unique facilities or institutional uses, which are appropriately located outside urban service areas
  • These can also be areas of existing development experiencing wastewater disposal or water supply problems
Open Space Corridors (areas protected from development) are composed of two types:
Environmental Corridors
  • Based on streams, lakes, shorelands, floodplains, wetlands, steep slopes, woodland, parks and publicly-owned lands.
  • Learn more about planning Environmental Corridors
Rural Resource Protection Areas
  • Based on floodplains, wetlands, and shoreland areas