Dane County is part of the Mississippi watershed, the largest US river watershed. Locally, we have five main subwatersheds: Wisconsin River, Upper Rock River, Middle Rock River, Sugar River, and Pecatonica River. On this page explore how these watersheds fit into the larger regional context, see land cover and land use within local watersheds, and search local news stories relating to water resources.

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What is a Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC)?


Land Cover

Surface water quality issues are influenced by watershed land cover - the physical surface of the land. Vegetative land cover retains stormwater runoff more efficiently than developed or impervious surfaces thereby reducing pollutants reaching local waterways. Agriculture is the most common land cover across Dane County. The largest developed areas are located around Madison.

  • Proportional land cover is shown for each larger watershed (HUC 8) and smaller watershed (HUC 10) in the Madison region.  Compare the percentage of each land cover within each watershed.
  • Select specific HUC 10's to see land cover over a smaller area

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Data Source: Wiscland 2.0 land cover was released in September 2016. This collaborative effort among the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Wisconsin State Cartographer's Office developed detailed land use for the entire state. Data available for download from the WDNR Open Data Portal. Level 1 land cover classification shown with barren and shrubland combined into "other." 

Land Use

Land use refers to how humans use the land. Some categories overlap directly with land cover (such as agriculture and forest) but others, such as recreation, include various land covers. Look at a specific HUC 12 to see 2015 land use within the watershed.

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Data Source: 2015 Dane County land use was developed by the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission and Dane County Planning and Development. Land use is available through this interactive map.  "Other" land use includes Industrial, Manufacturing, Mineral Extraction, Institutional, Governmental, Cemetery, Commercial, Wholesale, Retail, Vacant Subdivided, and Under Construction. "Transportation" use includes Communications and Utilities.

Get Involved

Interested in learning more about issues in your watershed? Want to help protect local water bodies?  Consider joining a citizen-based watershed group.