The City of Milwaukee consistently strives to improve its status a

Water Centric City by applying the nine principles.

Water Leadership

Mayor Tom Barrett has prioritized our water resources. Milwaukee is a proud partner in the UN Compact Cities Programme, leading by example on water issues.

Milwaukee is also a leading member of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, a binational coalition of over 110 U.S. and Canadian mayors working to advance the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. Mayor Barrett also supports the Great Lakes Compact and has worked to ensure it is implemented correctly. The City also endorsed the International Water Association's Water Wise Cities principles.


Gathering Place By The Water

Milwaukee is located on America’s Fresh Coast on the shores of Lake Michigan, with three rivers running throughout. Milwaukee has restored Bradford Beach, one of America’s top urban beaches. Milwaukee has also reclaimed its rivers with a Riverwalk and is reconnecting residents to the Harbor District with it's Take Me to the River Project. The Milwaukee Water Commons also hosts cultural events to celebrate water.

Water Technology

Milwaukee has centered its economic development strategy on water technology through The Water Council and the Global Water Center as the point of collaboration in the Water Technology District. Milwaukee is working with The Water Council to identify new district-scale water solutions.   The Water Council offers the BREW (Business Research Entrepreneurship in Wisconsin) Accelerator along with a number of other programs to support water innovation.  The BREW, launched in 2013, unleashes water innovation by funding water technology startups with commercialization potential.

Green Infrastructure

The City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District are national leaders in the adoption of green infrastructure. Milwaukee’s Green Infrastructure and Climate Adaptation page describes the City’s efforts in detail and describes the regional goal of capturing 740 million gallons of rainwater annually through green infrastructure. 

Applied Water Research and Policy

The City of Milwaukee Environmental Collaboration Office provides internship opportunities to students from the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences. City officials regularly attend presentations by water academics from UWM and the Marquette University Water Law and Policy Center. As a result of this collaboration, the City has more aggressively sought to deal with lead service lines in private buildings. The City also banned coal-tar pavement sealants that had polluted local rivers with PAHs.

Fishable, Swimmable Rivers and Water Bodies

The City of Milwaukee has removed the North Avenue dam on the Milwaukee River and established the Milwaukee River Overlay Zone to establish conservation on the banks of the Milwaukee River. Southeastern Wisconsin Watershed Trust, Inc is partner with the City that coordinates efforts across watersheds.


Sustainable Water Supply

The City of Milwaukee pulls and treats drinking water from Lake Michigan, one of the largest bodies of freshwater in the world. Wastewater is treated by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and returned to the Lake. The City of Milwaukee supports the Great Lakes Compact to limit diversion of water from the Great Lakes. The City of Milwaukee also has a “Use Water Wisely” campaign to reduce water use waste and other efforts to reduce water and energy waste.

Healthy Drinking Water

The Milwaukee Water Works is an award-winning national leader in providing high-quality drinking water, and is recognized in the national water community for its comprehensive water quality monitoring program and operations. Since 1996, the Milwaukee Water Works has treated its water with ortho-phosphate to reduce the risk of lead leaching from plumbing materials into water. This compound forms a protective coating inside pipes and is considered to be the best practice for the control of lead in drinking water. In 2017, the City of Milwaukee developed new support to help private property owners address leaking lead service lines.

Onsite Water Reuse

Milwaukee’s Water Technology District has “purple pipe” infrastructure for grey water capture. The City has also developed innovative strategies for harvesting rain water to support urban agriculture at it's Cream City Farm.

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