Water Equity Clearinghouse

Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District

Milwaukee, WI

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) is the water reclamation utility for 1.1 million people in 28 communities in the Greater Milwaukee Area. MMSD is a leader in wastewater treatment, flood management, green infrastructure, and sustainability.

Efforts to Advance Water Equity

MMSD recognizes that water management is intrinsically linked to equity, and that utilities have the opportunity to strengthen vulnerable communities through climate resilience, public health, and workforce development initiatives. They partner with community-based organizations and other agencies to conduct public outreach and ensure that the concerns of vulnerable communities are incorporated into the utilities’ operations and planning.

The utility has undertaken an $80-million project that will remove the concrete that runs along the Kinnickinnic River and replace it with a more resilient alternative, reducing flood risk for the surrounding area and creating new green space. MMSD is developing a watershed-specific green infrastructure plan to identify areas where this important stormwater management technique can have the greatest impact to reduce flooding, improve water quality, and restore green space along the river. The utility purchased some of the homes directly in the floodplain, creating space for a wider, slower channel and allowing homeowners in high risk areas to relocate. Concrete has already been removed in some areas, and the channel is becoming more hospitable to trout and salmon. MMSD has partnered with local nonprofit Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers to engage residents in decision-making around this project.

By the year 2035, MMSD wants to have constructed enough green infrastructure in its region to capture 740 million gallons of water every time it rains. The utility is employing a variety of strategies to achieve its green infrastructure goals, including, rain gardens, rain barrels, green roofs, bioswales, porous pavement, stormwater trees, and native landscaping.

MMSD recognizes the potential for water investment to generate economic and neighborhood benefits, and is creating workforce development programs to ensure that vulnerable communities can access water sector career pathways.