Transforming Urban Gardens

Installation of Milkwaukee's Southside urban community gardens

Installation of Milkwaukee’s Southside urban community gardens | Sean Foltz

American Rivers and the Garden District Neighborhood Association recently received a grant through Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District’s Green Infrastructure Partnership Program. The funding is helping transform an area on Milwaukee’s Southside into a sustainable showcase for urban community gardens across the country.

A first of its kind interlocking, precast pervious concrete system was installed where the farmers market is held on the corner of 6th and Howard. The market is held every Saturday throughout the growing season. The funds also helped construct a 5,000 gallon rainwater harvesting system that contains the stormwater runoff from the access drive.

The stormwater is fed through a solar pump and ionization, and then flows into a small stream where it winds through the north edge of the market. The process now provides filtered water for the community garden plots.

The system was created because like many urban gardens there was no access to a permanent water source, and policy changes have shifted fire hydrant use away from urban gardeners. So, not only does this project highlight the growing need for water harvesting and reuse across the nation, but it also provides an estimated 25,000 gallons of water a year for the urban garden plots.

This practice now reduces polluted stormwater runoff that would otherwise run into the Kinnickinnic River and Lake Michigan. The installation also provides a unique opportunity for other urban garden coalitions to make similar efforts to provide water to their tenants, and reduce demand on potable municipal water.