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The western United States is in a severe drought. Lack of rainfall and high temperatures are making a bad situation much worse. Some may think, “That’s their problem, not ours.” That is simply wrong.
The first half of 2021 bears witness that, here in Southeast Wisconsin, we need to be concerned about changing weather patterns. So far this year, we are approximately six inches below normal rainfall.
At the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), we must be prepared for extreme storms. We know that a one-inch rainfall spread over our 411-square-mile service area equates to approximately 7.1 billion gallons of water. A deficit of six inches translates to nearly 43 billion gallons that is not soaking into the ground, flowing through our rivers, and replenishing Lake Michigan. If this continues, Lake Michigan will suffer.
I am usually the person praying for dry weather. At MMSD, we are tasked with minimizing the pollutants that reach our waterways. We have been very successful at this by providing better-than-required wastewater treatment and by reducing combined sewer overflows to a point where only 1.6% of the water reaching our systems annually is not treated. We are striving to bring this number down to zero.
We are fortunate to have Lake Michigan as a buffer against drought, though it is simply a buffer. If we do not take care of the Lake, generations to come will suffer.
Water is a limited resource everywhere. In the water industry, we refer to this as “One Water”. This has different meanings for each of us, no matter how you interpret this term, “One Water” is “Our Water”.
To drive home this important linkage, MMSD and over 15 organizations will bring you stories around the theme “One Water, Our Water”. These stories will hopefully drive home the importance of water stewardship in your daily lives and move you to take action.
One Water is Our Water is My Water. We just need to take care of it.
Be Safe! Be Understanding! Be Kind!
Kevin L. Shafer, P.E.
Executive Director - Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District
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