Water Quality Improvement Plan Update

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In August of 2018, we gave an update about Sweet Water’s Water Quality Improvement Plan (WQIP) in the Watershed Watch. Since then, substantial progress has been made on its development. Read on to learn about what the WQIP is, what’s coming up over the next few months, how the WQIP is relevant to you, and how you can get involved.

Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust, Inc. is creating a Water Quality Improvement Plan (WQIP) for the Greater Milwaukee Watersheds. This plan will build on the technical strength of the TMDL Report, several nine key element (9KE) plans, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s (MMSD) Regional Green Infrastructure and 2050 Facilities Plans, and a number of Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission’s (SEWRPC) plans.

However, the WQIP is different from these plans in that it focuses on how to make sure the goals and the recommendations in these other plans are put into action in an efficient way while also achieving important co-benefits.  This relates directly to how work is funded and implemented, how work is prioritized, how collaboration can work, how to leverage the strengths of each sector, and how the impacts of watershed restoration efforts can be monitored and measured over time.

As an initial step towards answering these questions, an ‘Options Paper’ for the Water Quality Improvement Plan was completed in February of 2019. This document identifies different implementation strategies  for undertaking water quality improvements and more rapid delisting of stream segments in the Greater Milwaukee Watersheds (GMW). These strategies include methods new to the GMW as well as familiar methods used in the region in the past. It is understood that the suggested approaches are subject to be further modified, combined, or thrown out entirely as discussions about the WQIP progress, leading up to a set of final WQIP recommendations to be issued towards the end of 2019.

The success of the WQIP is entirely dependent upon the buy-in of the stakeholders whose interest, support, and participation will be essential for the successful implementation of these strategies. To determine which of these options are of interest and identify how they can be tailored to fit the GMW’s needs, it will be critical over the coming month to engage all watershed stakeholders. This will be done through including the WQIP on the agenda of existing meetings as well as gathering stakeholders in new forums for discussion. After initial engagement and education about the options has been completed and the most pertinent options identified, we will ask stakeholders to join ‘option teams’ to further refine the strategies. Stakeholder input is crucial to ensuring  that the final Water Quality Improvement Plan suggests the best possible options for addressing the “how” questions above as they refer to the GMW.

For upcoming meetings that will address the WQIP, please refer to our WQIP webpage, which will be regularly updated with news about this process. Other resources accessible from the site include WQIP documents including the Options Paper, a summary of the Options Paper, the WQIP Scope of Work, and a powerpoint overview.  The webpage also includes links to other watershed plans, tools, and resources referenced by the WQIP. In the coming months there will also be a call for Options Team Members with information on how to join the groups.

This process of stakeholder engagement will continue through October of 2019. Draft Water Quality Improvement Plan recommendations will be delivered to MMSD on November 20, 2019 and the recommendations will be finalized in February 2020. If you have any questions, please reach out to Janet Pritchard at pritchard@swwtwater.org.