Bookmark and Share

Stormwater Management


Milwaukee is situated on one of the largest fresh water bodies in the world - Lake Michigan and the rivers that feed into it. This amenity provides many opportunities for recreation and commerce. Protecting our lakes is critical for the city and for the region. Citizens, business, and government must take individual and community responsibility for keeping our lake and rivers clean.

New! The City of Milwaukee is exploring cost effective and innovative approaches for managing stormwater to help neighborhoods be more resilient to extreme storm events. One approach that is being studied is the so-called BaseTernTM, an underground stormwater management or rainwater harvesting structure created from the former basement of an abandoned home that has been slated for demolition. By using this existing basement cavity, the City saves on demolition costs of the old structure and the construction of the new one. The structure would be underground and covered with turf to fit safely within the neighborhood. The preliminary prototypes can hold as much water as 600 hundred rain barrels! Learn more here by checking out this Feasibility Study. BaseTernTM FAQs

Green Streets

The City Milwaukee is designing city streets to reduce flooding risks, improve the quality of our lakes and rivers, and help the City adapt to a changing climate.

Through guidance outlined in the City's new Green Streets Stormwater Management Plan, as streets are scheduled to repaired or replaced the City is systematically evaluating opportunities to install new green infrastructure assets -  assets like bioretention basins in street medians and tree trenches near sidewalks. The Green Street Stormwater Management Plan was funded by the WI Coastal Management Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Green Infrastructure GIS Tool The City of Milwaukee's Green Infrastructure GIS planning tool is now publicly available at . This tool is available to storm water professionals and students engaged in community planning. Through open data sharing, the goal is to facilitate the advancement of green infrastructure planning in the City of Milwaukee, and ultimately, make the City more sustainable and resilient.


  • Reducing Non-Point Source Pollution that occurs when stormwater or melting snow picks up pollutants and delivers them to our rivers and lakes. These pollutants include grease and oil from cars, salt, excessive fertilizers and herbicides, and bacteria from animal waste. Controlling non-point source pollution requires a community effort because the pollutants come from many sources.
  • Reducing Sewer Overflows. Sewer overflows occur when when more stormwater enters the sewer system than the system can handle. Reducing the amount of stormwater flow into the sewer system can reduce the risk of these overflows. This can be done by increasing green space or through downspout disconnection in the combined sewer area. This area extends from the lakefront to the east, 43rd Street to the west, Capital Drive to the north, and Oklahoma Avenue to the south.


  • Reducing Non-Point Source Pollution. The City has constructed two major bioretention facilities along Canal Street in the Menomonee Valley. The facilities remove contaminants from stormwater before the flows are discharged into the Menomonee River.
  • Reducing Sewer Overflows. Mayor Barrett has directed City departments to reduce by 15% the amount of stormwater runoff from city properties and encourages businesses and residents to do the same. The Public Works facility on 35th and Capital manages its stormwater on-site in an attractive pond. In 2007, the Department of Public Works installed a green roof on the municipal building at 809 N. Broadway.
  • Reducing Flow of Stormwater into Sewers. The City has funded a variety of projects to reduce the flow of stormwater into the sewer system. These include downspout disconnections in targeted neighborhoods, foundation drain disconnections in public housing, and adding inlet restrictors on selected streets to reduce the flow of stormwater into the sewer system.
  • Increasing Native Plants. The City is also incorporating more native plants in city boulevards and public green spaces. Native plants soak up more rain water and require less maintenance than non-native species.
  • Constructing Green Roofs & Rain Gardens. The City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District share the vision that green infrastructure is a very cost-effective approach for managing stormwater and improving the water quality of our Lakes and Rivers. The City has installed green roofs on its historic Central Library and municipal building.
  • Reducing Stormwater Runoff into Milwaukee Waterways. The use of bioretention to reduce stormwater runoff and increase on-site stormwater infiltration is incorporated into Green Street projects. These facilities function as filtration/infiltration devices. Roadway runoff enters the bioretention facilities where vegetative plantings filter pollutants and stormwater evaporates or infiltrates into the ground. Green Street projects include:
    • North 92nd Street Greet Street - West Capitol Drive to West Good Hope Road
    • West Grange Avenue Green Street - South 19th Street to South 27th Street
    • North 27th Street Green Street - West Capitol Drive to West Roosevelt Drive
  • Milwaukee Becomes one of Eight Cities to Join REinvest Initiative to Develop Resilient Stormwater Initiatives - May 23, 2013
  • UWM Study Results Show Green Infrastructure May Improve Property Values - April 30, 2013



In the News

  • NEW! July 9, 2014: City of Milwaukee Commissions Study on "BaseTernTM" Project for Stormwater Management. Download full report HERE.
  • NEW! June 19, 2014: City of Milwaukee Releases Inaugural Sustainable Municipal Water Management Report. Download full report HERE.

 Reports & Publications

BaseTern™ Feasibility Study:


2014 Sustainable Municipal Water Management Public Evaluation Report: 


Great Lakes Green Streets Guidebook: 



What You Can Do

You can help improve the quality of our waterways and help prevent flooding with actions in your own home. Connect with MMSD to learn about what small actions you can take that make a big difference. Some ideas include: