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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 Water Works is an award-winning national leader in providing affordable, high-quality drinking water, and is recognized in the national water community for its comprehensive water quality monitoring program and operations.

Although medical professionals agree that lead paint is the number one cause of elevated blood lead levels, Milwaukee Water Works is doing everything possible to eliminate any risk from lead, no matter how small. For more than 25 years, Milwaukee Water Works has treated the city’s drinking water with food-grade orthophosphate, which prevents lead from leaching into the water. Orthophosphate forms a protective barrier inside pipes and prevents corrosion. Water chemistry experts and regulators consider it the best practice for preventing lead from getting into drinking water through lead pipes.  

Since 2017, the City of Milwaukee has supported homeowners' desireS to replace lead service lines by systematically removing lead service lines and providing financial assistance to homeowners. Lead service lines run from the water main in the street and connect with a home’s internal plumbing. The City provides a subsidy of 2/3 of the cost for the homeowners half of the line, allowing homeowner's to distribute the remaining cost on a ten-year payment plan. The City pays for 100% of the cost for the public half of the line. Milwaukee Water Works has replaced more than 5,000 lead service lines and hopes to expand its lead service line replacement program with new federal funds available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. More information about reducing the risk of lead exposure can be found on the Milwaukee Water Works website.

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 and as a result, saving hundreds of dollars on their water bill!


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.



Cited Sources:
1. (MMSD)
2. (Journal Sentinel) aldermen-approve-lead-pipe-replacement-plan/95342526/
3. (Milwaukee Business Journal) changes-lake-michigan-water-provider.html
4. (DNR)