Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Milwaukee Tackles Stormwater

I’ve written on this blog before, “The lesson over and over again is that big, downstream, end-of-the-pipe processes and facilities by themselves aren’t the solution to combined storm and wastewater overflows in large metropolitan areas.”

Susan Nusser reported in Urban Milwaukee on May 28, 2015 that the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) is implementing watershed based management and triple bottom line accounting.

rain garden, Milwaukee.jpg

“Watershed-based management shifts the management of water resources from a gray infrastructure model: channeling water quickly and efficiently to a central location, treating it, and returning it to its source, to a green infrastructure model in which water is managed where it  lands.”

(Bear in mind that in Detroit, combined storm and wastewater surging through an inadequate gray infrastructure during major storms usually overwhelms the system, resulting in raw sewage or partially treated sewage being dumped into the region’s rivers and from there into Lake Erie.)

“...[A] new watershed permit enabled [upstream communities] to share costs on larger projects that would benefit the watershed, which means individual municipalities now get credit for work even though it’s not wholly within their political boundaries.”

MMSD’s decision years ago to practice triple bottom line accounting made collaboration on the new permit easier.  The new accounting system takes into account social, environmental and financial costs.

“Far better than building more expensive and high-maintenance tunnels and pipes was an approach allowing the water to be absorbed where it landed, and partnering with other entities and pooling resources for solutions.”

Nevertheless, “...MMSD’s goals far exceed those [Milwaukee] is on track to achieve. Currently the city is only capturing about 14 million gallons of storm water…”  The city’s goal is to increase green infrastructure by 10 percent annually.

Nusser quotes Milwaukee Commissioner of Public Works Ghassan Korban, “That’s how you start...You raise the bar. You set high expectations and you get everybody to collaborate and try to achieve the goal.”


  1. It's a shame LBrooksP in OaklandCounty has always taken in the approach "" Well its good for me, us, my community, right now - everyone else be damned"" . A County with 5 watersheds and it throws all problems over the wall, into neighboring areas. An island mentality, instead of collaborating as a cohesive SouthEast Michigan approach to stormwater

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