Finding the right strategic balance between traditional out- of sight and out-of mind grey infrastructure and green storm water infrastructure (GI) requires communities to think holistically.

By Mark Mittag, P.E., CH2M HILL

Mark Mittag will present the paper “Green Solutions on Milwaukee’s Fresh Coast – the MMSD Regional Green Infrastructure Plan” on Tuesday, October 8 at 2 pm in TS419 during WEFTEC 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. Learn more about CH2M HILL’s WEFTEC 2013 participation and technical sessions. 

Communities are thinking holistically about how to solve their water quality challenges to find the right balance between traditional out-of-sight and out-of-mind grey infrastructure and green stormwater infrastructure. Strategies that are woven into our rooftops, yards, streets, and parking lots provide the water quality environmental benefits that our communities need, as well as social and economic benefits. Milwaukee is an example of this holistic thinking. They envision a future where the region will evolve from a strong backbone of grey infrastructure to one draped in a heavy complement of green infrastructure.

CH2M HILL led the consulting team for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) to develop a Regional Green Infrastructure Plan laying the blueprint to reach MMSD’s 2035 Vision of 740 million new gallons of green infrastructure storage. That blueprint, announced this summer, promises to be transformational for the MMSD planning area along Milwaukee’s fresh coast of Lake Michigan.

Unique to the Plan is that MMSD is not operating under a consent decree requiring GI, which allowed for opportunities to identify GI in both combined and separate sewer areas. This is because 94 percent of the MMSD planning area is a separate sewer service area while only 6 percent is a combined sewer service area. As a result, the Regional GI Plan is designed to address not only the combined sewer service area, but also to complement separate sewer service area initiatives and regional water quality improvement goals.

The Plan will also support a new discharge permit condition that requires MMSD to add one million gallons of new per-storm GI capacity to the region annually. This is the first permit in the country with a GI requirement in the body of the permit.

Understanding the unique watershed characteristics and choosing green infrastructure strategies suitable to each of MMSD’s 7 watersheds enabled watershed-specific recommendations. These recommendations were then considered to evaluate the environmental, social, and economic benefits of green infrastructure implementation. This triple-bottom-line analysis identified: reduced CSO (combined sewer overflow) volume, energy savings, carbon reduction, property value increases, neighborhood aesthetic improvements, and more.

The Plan has the advantage of building upon the historical GI successes from MMSD leadership in the region including having already installed:

  • 18,000+ rain barrels
  • 29,000+ rain garden plants at annual discounted sales
  • 9 acres of green roofs
  • 2,400+ acres of green space protected for flood management through MMSD’s Greenseams® program

The Plan started with these successes and will multiply GI implementation many times over current conditions to achieve the MMSD 2035 Vision of 740 million new gallons of green infrastructure storage at a cost of $1.3 billion. Recommended next steps for GI implementation include: a new/redevelopment GI requirement, a review of municipal codes and ordinances, funding strategies, the development of GI design as well as operation and maintenance standards, and demonstration projects to continue showcasing available GI technologies.

Come talk to us at WEFTEC to discuss more details of the Plan. If you are unable to attend, you can preview the Plan online.

Mark Mittag. PE, works in CH2M HILL’s Milwaukee office where he has 19 years of water resources consulting experience. His areas of expertise include stormwater management, green infrastructure, green streets, and watershed solutions to water quality challenges.