EPA Confirms Milwaukee as a Leader on Green Infrastructure


Milwaukee is at the forefront of cities working to truly integrate green infrastructure into their water infrastructure, which also helps with climate adaptation. American Rivers works with the City and our partners at the Sweet Water Trust to help achieve Milwaukee’s green vision.

Recently EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson visited Milwaukee to commend the City’s good work and recommit to the need for Green Infrastructure saying:

“Green infrastructure is a fiscally responsible and environmentally sustainable answer to today’s water challenges.  It manages stormwater by treating it like a resource – and it works with nature, rather than against it.”

Green infrastructure activity in the Milwaukee-Racine area recently has also been linked to climate adaptation. The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread recently held a briefing on Stormwater, Climate Change and Wisconsin’s Coastal Communities by David Liebl, a Stormwater Specialist with UW-Cooperative Extension (you can watch David’s presentation). Wingspread Graduate Fellow, Laura Maker reflected on the relevance of the briefing to the recent and extreme flooding in Milwaukee in her blog. Specifically she notes how we need to start adapting the way we live in order to better cope with the extreme weather events we are seeing as a result of climate change:

 “These ever more frequent storms just might open our eyes to the folly of using yesterday’s infrastructure to deal with today’s weather. I certainly plan to adapt my own home. I hope my community and my country will do the same.”

I couldn’t agree more. One of the best ways to adapt to unpredictable storms and flooding, is to increase our investment in green infrastructure. As we have written previously on this blog, green infrastructure is an effective, low cost, natural way of managing our stormwater. In addition to this, there are three main reasons why it is the best solution for adapting to climate change.

  1. Green infrastructure is very adaptive. Tunnels and large pipe systems can take years to build and cost millions of dollars. And they take as much time and money to change or upgrade. Climate change is happening rapidly, and its effects are unpredictable, and concrete infrastructure is not very adaptable. Green infrastructure, which is cheaper and quicker to build, is can be easily and quickly adapted to changing conditions year after year.
  2. Green Infrastructure works well with traditional infrastructure. Even though traditional infrastructure isn’t very adaptable, it is still useful and necessary in many instances. Besides, we already have a lot of it. When built correctly together, we can get the best of both green and traditional infrastructure.
  3. Green infrastructure has multiple benefits. Green infrastructure practices can manage stormwater while reducing urban heat island effects. While increasing habitat for birds and butterflies, green infrastructure significantly improves the look of a neighborhood.

And that’s just the top three; the list goes on.