Skip to Content

Global Water Center Inside

Water Technology Park Sign

Cream City Farms Water Build

Main Content


Improvements in technology have the power to make life more convenient and connected. 

New inventions also help us access, treat, and deliver water more efficiently than ever before. 

Milwaukee's Leadership

To build on the historical and economic significance of being located on the largest supply of freshwater in the world, Milwaukee is currently leveraging its natural water resource assets with the latest research and technology to re-align the local economy around water and become a Water Centric City on America’s Fresh Coast.

Rich in innovation, the Milwaukee region is also home to more than 150 water-related companies, including giants like A.O. Smith, Badger Meter, Veolia, and Pentair, and smaller water-related startups. This collection of water-related companies has used research to advance in water purification and filtration, flood water and wastewater systems, water supply and disposal, aquaculture systems, and much more.  


Stormwater Capture Inventions

Storm GUARDen

Entrepreneurs, researchers, and businesses in Milwaukee have developed innovative pilot programs and technologies such as the BaseTern, Storm GUARDen, and Rainshed.

Technology Accelerators

water technology competition

The Global Water Center offers the BREW Accelerator (Business-Research-Entrepreneurship in Wisconsin), twice annual Tech Challenge, and water technology Pilot Program to foster innovation.

Onsite Water Reuse Systems

Volunteers install AquaBlox to form Cream City Farm's underground cistern.

As water supplies become scarcer, onsite water reuse is being used to capture and re-use rainwater where it falls, as well as reducing the energy-intensity required to treat and move drinking water across long distances.

The Principle in Action

Entrepreneurs, researchers, and businesses can invest their time and creativity in developing and scaling innovative solutions to our twenty-first century water challenges.

Milwaukee's Water Technology District

Milwaukee’s realignment of the local economy around water would not be possible without the creation of Milwaukee’s Water Technology District. Located in the district is Reed Street Yards, which is a 17-acre property located between South 6th St. and South 3rd St. targeted by the City of Milwaukee and the Water Concil as the future center of Milwaukee's growing water industry.

Reed Street Yards showcases water technologies and practices, including a purple pipe for development-wide water recycling, bioswales, and permeable paving to capture stormwater runoff. Site amenities include an extension of the Hank Aaron State Trail, 2,700 linear feet of Riverwalk along the Menomonee River Canal and an interactive public plaza and water feature. Development includes the headquarters of the Global Water Center, plumbing equipment maker Zurn Industries, and manufacturer Rite-Hite.

The Water Council

Milwaukee’s advancement in water research and policy would be incomplete without the frequent partnership with The Water CouncilThe Water Council is fervent in the belief that research, improving technology, and growing water technology businesses are critical in order to solve some of the most pressing human and environmental health challenges around the world. By linking together academia, civic leaders, water innovators, and researchers to businesses, The Water Council is making the critical connection between research and the water industry.

The Global Water Center houses The Water Council and enables collaboration and partnership among its stakeholders. The building is a state-of-the-art, USGBC-LEED Silver certified water business and research facility at the heart of Milwaukee's water technology hub.

Reed Street Yards

Reed Street Yards: City of Milwaukee Business Park


Global Water Center Building
Global Water Center


Urban Ecology Center

Non-profit organizations have also taken strides in advancing water reuse systems. Milwaukee’s Urban Ecology Center Riverside Park Branch is a outstanding example of water reuse. Rainwater is collected in three 350-gallon stainless steel water cisterns and used to to flush toilets. This unique restroom system saves thousands of gallons of clean water every year by using only rainwater.

Urban Ecology Center Riverside Park Branch

Urban Ecology Center Riverside Park Branch

Researchers at the Global Water Center


Milwaukee Innovations

BaseTern is a pilot program using the basement of an abandoned home that has been slated for demolition for underground stormwater management. 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 is underground and covered with turf to fit safely within the neighborhood. The preliminary prototypes can hold as much water as 600 hundred rain barrels!

RainShed, designed by University of Wisconsin School of Architecture & Urban Planning students, is a small building that harvests rainwater for on-site water reuse. A pilot program designed RainSheds to be built for under $1,000 and to hold up to 550 gallons of stormwater. UW-Extension Community Gardens & Micro-Farms beta-tested the design, and the first RainShed now stands at Rawson Gardens. Under the City of Milwaukee’s HOME GR/OWN's 2015 Partners for Places initiative, grants have funded Milwaukee County UW-Extension to build a modified version at Kohl Farms. Groundwork Milwaukee built a third RainShed at the Spector Orchard.

Milwaukee-based stormwater engineering firm Stormwater Solutions Engineering created the StormGUARDen.TM  This innovative downspout disconnect device filters and stores 6.5 rain barrels of stormwater before slowly draining 10 feet away from the building’s foundation. The StormGUARDenTM  supports plant life by providing a long-term source of water during dry weather, and its special soil media and filter is designed to remove pollutants before draining.

Accelerating Change

Collaboration within the Global Water Center has led to innovative programs such as the Water Council’s BREW Accelerator (Business-Research-Entrepreneurship in Wisconsin), which assists water technology entrepreneurs in developing their companies and expanding their commercialization opportunities by pairing the water-focused entrepreneurs with credible resources. It also provides new water solutions such as The Water Council’s WAVE: Water Stewardship Verified program, which helps companies become better freshwater stewards.

The Water Council also works with companies in Milwaukee and elsewhere to hold its twice annual Tech Challenge, in which entrepreneurs, companies, research labs and others respond to challenge topics issued by leading water technology companies. Its Pilot Program allows innovators to conduct in-field testing for water technologies at Wisconsin demonstration sites, including Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District treatment plants.

Rainwater Harvesting

Water reuse systems can be taken advantage of on both residential and commercial properties. By harvesting rainwater, you can reduce your environmental footprint, lighten the load on our stormwater infrastructure, and show your community that you care about protecting and restoring our natural resources.

The City of Milwaukee created the Commercial Rainwater Harvesting and Reuse Guide to support local water stewards on their projects. The City has also developed Rainwater Collection Guidelines for Milwaukee Residents and Property Owners in partnership with the University of Milwaukee - School of Freshwater Sciences and Reflo - Sustainable Water Solutions.

Both guides walk audiences through the steps of safely harvesting, storing, and using rainwater. They also identify local, city, and state codes and ordinances related to rainwater harvesting and types of systems available. 

Work to be Done

As Milwaukee seeks to be a global leader in water technology, it needs to ensure that the technologies and practices developed are put to use in Milwaukee. To accomplish this, Milwaukee needs to continue to encourage the growth and development of water technology research and businesses, continuously communicate new water technologies and practices, encourage widespread adoption of water-centric technology, and provide education, funding, and incentives to Milwaukee’s homeowners and businesses for water-centric technologies.

Water Council Meeting

Meeting at the Global Water Center