Sourced from Urban Milwaukee
When it rains in Milwaukee, a lot of the grime that coats the streets ends up getting flushed into our local bodies of water.
The Metro Milwaukee Sewerage District (MMSD) gets most of it, and treats it. But a lot still ends up in our rivers and streams, and it brings with it all the nasty things from our streets: oil and gas spills, salt, bird and dog feces, lawn fertilizers.
MMSD has successfully caught and cleaned 98.5 percent of all stormwater and wastewater since 1994, says Bill Graffin, public information manager for MMSD. But Milwaukee’s streams, despite this feat of engineering, are still quite polluted. Some are in irreparable shape. A local non-profit that studies pollution in the river basin grades it very poorly. And while there are many variables that lead to this outcome, polluted runoff is by bar the biggest cause.
And so, for more than a decade MMSD has been offering matching funds for buildings and projects in the city to install green infrastructure that captures and cleans water where it falls. “There are a lot of willing partners,” says Karen Sands, director of planning research and sustainability, but they might lack financing “Sometimes the partners might need something of a cost-share.”
Any green infrastructure project that goes up is ultimately a net-benefit for the public. It simply decreases pollutants entering our bodies of water. And it’s sustainable. It takes a nuisance, the stormwater runoff which floods basements and pollutes our streams, and uses it as a resource. If the MMSD service area gets 1 inch of rain, that equates to roughly 7 billion gallons of water, said Graffin. “The more we can manage, the better off our rivers and Lake Michigan are going to be.”