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Equity Prioritization Plan

Milwaukee Water Works is expanding its lead service line replacement program to prioritize neighborhoods with the greatest need.

Our Equity Prioritization plan balances three key factors:

  1. Density of lead service lines,
  2. Incidences of elevated blood lead levels (EBLL) in children, and
  3. The neighborhood's score on the ADI a socio-economic index. 

Normalizing these three criteria by population allows us to compare every neighborhood in Milwaukee and calculate a combined score relative to population.

We balance the three criteria by giving each a relative weight, with an emphasis on promoting equity:  The ADI score is weighted at 70%, EBLL is weighted at 25% and lead service line density is weighted at 5%. 

Using the same criteria and measuring by population provides a numerical score (from 0 - 1,000) for each Census Block Group. When all 400+ Census Block Groups are scored, we then put them in rank order. 

The final step is accounting for the fact that about 60% of the highest ranking Census Block Groups for all three criteria are on the North Side, and about 40% of the highest ranking Census Block groups are on the South Side. To address this imbalance, Water Works will conduct 60% of annual replacements on the North Side and 40% of annual replacements on the South Side.  

  • Density of Lead Service Lines
  • Elevated Blood Lead Levels
  • Socio-Economic Index

Milwaukee Water Works maintains an inventory of lead service lines. We use this data to determine lead service line density. 

Elevated Blood Lead Level data is provided by the Milwaukee Health Department.

The socio-economic index we use is called the Area Deprivation Index (ADI), developed by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health's Center for Health Disparities.

  • The ADI combines 17 different criteria
  • The criteria relate to income, employment, housing, education, and other household factors.
  • It was designd to inform healthcare delivery and health-related policy. 
  • The data for the ADI comes from the American Community Survey, which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

How many lead service lines will be replaced under the Equity Prioritization Plan? 

The vast majority of Milwaukee's remaining lead service lines will be replaced under the Equity Prioritization Plan.  In 2024, Milwaukee will replace 1,000 lead service lines as part of the Equity Prioritization Plan, in addition to the 1,200 replacements under the "base plan" of water main and city paving projects, childcare facilities, and leaks. 

2024 is the first year of implementing this process to prioritize neighborhoods with the greatest need. The number of lead service lines replaced using this formula will increase each year. 


How can I find out if my lead service line will be replace as part of the Equity Prioritization Plan? 

A property owner or resident can find out if the lead service line at their address is scheduled for replacement in the current year by visiting our interactive mapping site.

Our commitment to equity requires Water Works to recalculate the Census Block Group prioritization scores each year. As people move in and out of neighborhoods, the population and the factors that determine a neighborhood's ranking changes. As more and more primary care doctors test children for the presence of lead, the number of test results showing Elevated Blood Lead Levels also changes. The ADI score also changes every two years when the U.S. Census Bureau conducts the American Community Survey. Finally, as more and more lead service lines are replaced every year, the density of lead service lines across Milwaukee will shift.

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