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Wauwatosa a participant in clean water initiative

Jan. 22, 2013

Wauwatosa and 10 other communities have joined together in adopting a watershed-based stormwater permit, a program promoted by Southeastern Wisconsin Wastersheds Trust Inc., known as Sweet Water.

A watershed-based stormwater permit is a permit issued to multiple municipalities based on their geography, as opposed to a separate permit for each municipality.

The federal Clean Water Act requires local governments to operate with a stormwater permit, which regulates pollutants contained in stormwater runoff. A watershed-based permit is designed to address the runoff to an entire water system, in this case the Menomonee River system, irrespective of municipal boundaries.

The watershed-based permit system here is one of just three pilot projects of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to Sweet Water.

Maggie Anderson, a civil engineer with the city of Wauwatosa, said the new permit encourages the communities to work together to address pollutants, calling on each other's specific areas of expertise. Wauwatosa might assist with an erosion problem in Menomonee Falls, for example, she said, or one community might offer guidance on rain gardens to another.

Rain gardens are planted next to or amid hard surfaces, such as driveways or roofs, featuring deep-rooted plants, designed to soak up large amounts of water runoff.

Anderson said the watershed-based permit just went into effect in November.

Wauwatosa's strengths lie in green rooftops, rain gardens and bioswales, which are drainage features in a landscape.

The other units of local government participating are the cities of Brookfield, Milwaukee, Greenfield and Wauwatosa; the villages of Butler, Elm Grove, Germantown, West Allis, West Milwaukee and Menomonee Falls; and Milwaukee County.

Other participants include the state Department of Natural Resources, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, Sweet Water, the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and others.

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