Weekend Water Quality Update

Weekend Water Quality Update

As of Friday morning, July 21st at 10:30 am the water quality advisory signs have been taken down on the north shore. Swimmer’s itch notices remain up.  This implies that the last test came back with “acceptable” E. Coli levels.  Good News!

On A Side Note…

I have to express my, and others exasperation at how water quality notices are handled at the park. First let me say, that many people are not worried about E. Coli advisories and don’t think it’s a big deal. (I am not personally too concerned about my personal exposure either.) Other folks with young families and especially those with compromised immune systems find E. Coli to be a very big deal indeed. It’s frankly disrespectful to these folks to not properly notify park visitors BEFORE they arrive at the park.

Here’s the thing; First, the park has an official “Current Conditions” page which is often anything but current. As of this article, the last update on the current conditions page was June 26th, nearly 1 month ago. No mention of the E. Coli advisories was ever made on the current conditions page, something that folks on social media have complained about. In addition, we (and many others) signed up years ago for the “official” DNR Devil’s Lake State Park email list. This means that we are supposed to get relevant news and notices about the park. This simply does not happen. E. Coli notices are just the sort of thing this email list should provide. Lastly, when no notices or updates were forthcoming in over a week (I’m told testing is done 2 times per week), I stopped at the Visitor Information Center at the park yesterday (July 20th) and asked the staff. I was told that they didn’t know anything other than watching the signs themselves and were not updated. Really? The folks that greet you at the gate are not kept informed either?  How can they intelligently answer questions from callers or concerned visitors?

This should be an obvious customer service priority. People drive 3 hours or more to visit Devil’s Lake State Park and to swim at the beaches. They have every right to know the quality of the water BEFORE they load up their cars, drive 3 hours to wait in line a half-hour and navigate full parking lots, etc., (At least up to the last test result.) Water quality notices should be accurate, available and up-to-date on the park’s official current conditions page and emailed out on their mailing list. Testing updates should also state when these notices are removed and the water is considered safe. This isn’t hard and allows park visitors to plan ahead. I would suggest a basic water quality paragraph on the current conditions page: Current Status, Last Test Result, Next Test Result along with where testing is taken and how often. Obviously kept up-to-date through the swimming season.

For park visitors, I can tell you that you can check Wisconsin Beach Health website (Hosted by the USGS.) for what seems to be regularly updated beach reports including at Devil’s Lake State Park. But I also realize that tens of thousands of park users would never know about or think to look for this website and would simply check the current conditions page. If you ask me, that’s exactly the right thing to do and should be expected.  For some park users this information is just too important not to be proactive.

Speak Up

If you agree that water quality reports should be up-to-date and available online on Devil’s Lake State Park’s “official” current conditions page and shared via email, I’d encourage you to email the parks and tell them.

OK.. my rant is over… but jeepers crumbcakes anyway!!

Common Questions

What is E. Coli?

E. coli is a common form of coliform bacteria that is found in the large intestines of humans and other warm-blooded animals. It is used as an indicator organism since it is easily cultured, and if present in elevated amounts, indicates that fecal matter is present in the water. If fecal matter is in the water, then other disease-causing bacteria may also be present..

E. Coli is not the same as “Swimmer’s Itch”.

How long will it take to clean the lake?

You can not “clean” a natural lake in the way that you might a swimming pool.  You simply must wait for levels to go down in the affected area.

Why is there an advisory for one side of the lake and not the other?

Sometimes there will be an advisory for only one side or section of a lake or beach area. This is because the body of water is large enough that it is possible to have one end with elevated bacteria levels and the other end to be considered under safe levels with little threat of being contaminated. This is why you will see swimming, boating and other activities going on as usual in other areas of the lake.

More info

***Obligatory Disclaimer:  This website is NOT associated with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The views expressed in this blog are mine and do not represent the views of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.



  1. Beth Sluys

    People also need to use the bathrooms. But then the bathrooms are often filthy and full of trash. So just using the lake is the better option. So even if there is not an e. coli event when you get there, it does not mean that you aren’t immersed in someone else’s urine. So perhaps repairing the non-functioning bathroom at the North Shore near that back parking lot and also clean the restrooms more than once a day….the trash fills due to no trash containers anywhere….would be a good idea. That, and well funding the parks with state money would also help.

    1. Kelly Graham

      I agree with you 100%. I have been coming to Devil’s Lake for many years. I am always amazed at how they permit alcohol consumption at the park, in fact even encourage it by selling it at the concession stand, yet have very few restrooms available. I am not saying they shouldn’t allow or sell alcohol – that is one of the things that make the park nice is that you can go there and relax with an alcoholic beverage if you so choose. However, the few restrooms they have that are in somewhat working order are in deplorable and unsanitary condition. I have to think that the lack of restroom availability and consequent lines for the restrooms that form – make the lake a much more convenient option for a good majority of folks that enjoy the park. If they added a minor fee to either entrance or concessions, I am sure folks would gladly pay for updated, clean facilities in an effort to protect the very lake they are trying to enjoy.

  2. Sean Stilson

    If you voted for Scott Walker, you have nobody but yourself to blame for the lack of attentiveness to things like website updates and restroom maintenance. Walker slashed the budget for the state parks program by over 30% in his last budget and plans to cut more funding. Additionally, he removed ALL science funding for the DNR. When you have just enough staff to manage checking people in and caring for the campsites, it is difficult to manage water testing and website updates. The staff is already stretched thin and likely will thin more. So before going on a tirade about updates, consider how you vote for those who pass laws that impact our wildlife and forest management.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *