Water is our world’s most precious resource and essential for everything we do. The public deserves and expects a sustainable water supply. A sustainable water supply is one that can meet performance requirements of quality and quantity over the long term. This requires properly treating water at the source and delivering it safely to the public through both public water mains and private property service lines. Protecting drinking water also requires limiting or eliminating toxins and pollutants from entering the natural water bodies, particularly those that are difficult to treat with current technology.
The City of Milwaukee pulls and treats drinking water from Lake Michigan, one of the world’s largest sources of freshwater. This means Milwaukee has access to a water supply of sufficient quality and quantity to satisfy future demands. The City of Milwaukee recognizes the importance of preserving Lake Michigan’s water quality and quantity as demonstrated by some of its programs.
Milwaukee Water Works
The City of Milwaukee’s 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 and began to systematically replace them with copper pipes. The 2017 City budget included $3.9 million for the lead service line replacement program, and because of a new contract with Waukesha, Milwaukee received an additional $2.5 million to spend on replacing lead water service lines.2,3
Milwaukee Water Works is also actively reducing water waste with their Use Water Wisely campaign. The campaign helps customers find and repair water leaks to reduce water waste, control water costs, and conserve the water resource. According to the latest Use Water Wisely report, Milwaukee residents are saving water!
Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) contains one the most comprehensive water quality databases for Lake Michigan and its rivers. Their surface water quality monitoring program collects more than 150,000 water samples a year and analyzes more than 1 million individual data measurements from waterways, water reclamation facilities, and sewers. This extensive monitoring provides early warning detection of wastewater, industrial pollution and illegal dumping. Continued tracking of water quality and improvements to the District's wastewater treatment system and stream restoration helps ensure a healthy aquatic environment and retain the beneficial uses of Lake Michigan and Milwaukee-area waterways.1
Work to be Done
Water resources are a critical asset for the City of Milwaukee and have played an integral role in the City’s development. Milwaukee is committed to continue the trend of lowering its water consumption and increasing the surrounding water quality with the help and collaboration of its partners. A TMDL (total maximum daily load) calculation has been created for the Greater Milwaukee Watershed (Menomonee River, Kinnickinnic River, Milwaukee River Watersheds and the Milwaukee Harbor Estuary). The development of the TMDL is required as part of efforts to meet applicable water quality standards for impaired waterways under the federal Clean Water Act.4 While the TMDL requires steps to be taken by MS4 permit holders, MMSD has plans to create a comprehensive Water Quality Improvement Plan to help municipalities move toward compliance. Concurrently, the Milwaukee non-profit Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust (Sweet Water) is developing a Watershed-Wide Annual Reporting System that should also assist municipalities move toward compliance. The ultimate goal of Milwaukee’s TMDL is to delist impaired streams that are on the WDNR 303(d) list and protect and improve Milwaukee’s water supply.
1. (MMSD) https://www.mmsd.com/what-we-do/water-quality
2. (Journal Sentinel) www.jsonline.com/story/news/local/milwaukee/2016/12/13/milwaukee- aldermen-approve-lead-pipe-replacement-plan/95342526/
3. (Milwaukee Business Journal) www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2017/10/30/waukesha- changes-lake-michigan-water-provider.html
4. (DNR) dnr.wi.gov/topic/TMDLs/Milwaukee/