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Meter Pit Safety Training at Milwaukee Water Works

Linwood Water Treatment Facility

Milwaukee Riverkeeper conducting water monitoring

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Sustainable water supply meets performance requirements of quality and quantity over the long term.

Protecting drinking water also requires limiting or eliminating toxins and pollutants from entering natural water bodies, particularly those that are difficult to treat with current technology.

Milwaukee's Leadership

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.

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.


Replacing Lead Service Lines

Young Boy Drinking Water

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 Prevention in Water

orthophosphate on a pipe

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.

Use Water Wisely Program

Person using a water faucet

Milwaukee Water Works is actively reducing water waste with its Use Water Wisely Program that helps customers find and repair leaks to reduce water costs and conserve water resource.

The Principle in Action

Water is our world’s most precious resource and essential for everything we do. The public deserves and expects a sustainable water supply. 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.

Milwaukee Water Works

The Milwaukee 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.

In 2020, the Wisconsin Section of the American Water Works Association presented the Milwaukee Water Works with its Utility Achievement Award for Ongoing Excellence for obtaining Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources accreditation of its Water Quality Laboratory. The lab is certified for 30 water quality parameters, including Lead and Copper, using USEPA and Standard Methods. 

Linnwood treatment plan

Milwaukee Water Works Linnwood Water Treatment Plant


Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District

Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) maintains one of the most comprehensive water quality databases for Lake Michigan and its rivers. Its 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.

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 retains the beneficial uses of Lake Michigan and Milwaukee-area waterways.

Bikers on Milwaukee's lakefront

Bikers on Milwaukee's Lakefront (Photo: Visit Milwaukee)

Girl brushing her teeth at bathroom sink



Lead Service Line Replacement

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 homeowners 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. Read more about reducing the risk of lead exposure.

Water Quality Monitoring 

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. Milwaukee applies orthophosphate, which 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.  

Although testing for PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) is not required by the Environmental Protection Agency or the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Milwaukee Water Works has been testing for PFAS since 2008. It regularly tests for 45 different PFAS, including both long- and short-chain analytes. Water Works tests Lake Michigan source water, the treated water from both the Linnwood and Howard water treatment plants, and the water in the distribution system at several sites throughout the City.


Water Conservation

From billing data, Milwaukee Water Works Customer Service employees identify customers with unusually high water use and advise them on how to find and fix leaks. They then mail customers the Use Water Wisely brochure and toilet leak-detecting dye tabs. Meter Services technicians provide these informational packets as they investigate high water use cases, approximately 100 a month. Toilet leaks are the most common culprit of higher water usage and higher-than-normal bills, followed by leaking faucets, garden hoses and hookups, then shower heads or water heaters. Saving water also helps residents save dollars on their water bills. 

Quick Tips: Water your lawn during the coolest parts of the day, hand wash dishes in a sink full of soapy water, and replace fixtures and appliances with those displaying the EPA WaterSense label or Energy Star label. Save both water and energy by installing water-efficient products.

Work to be Done

A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) calculation has been created for the Greater Milwaukee Watershed including the Menomonee River, Kinnickinnic River, and 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. 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.

While the TMDL requires steps to be taken by MS4 permit holders, MMSD commissioned Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust (Sweet Water) to to create a Water Quality Improvement Plan to help municipalities move toward compliance and more efficiently and cost-effectively achieve improved water quality. The plan recommends that sub-watersheds are prioritized based on the existence of planned or implemented large capital investments that can leverage support for new efforts. The Water Quality Improvement Plan was submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for approval in March of 2020. 


Milwaukee Water Works North Tower

Milwaukee Water Works North Point Fountain