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I learned a long time ago that, to accommodate positive change, you need to partner with others. These changes can be as simple as carpooling with a coworker to work to save money or as complex as working with environmental groups and government agencies to improve the water quality in the region’s rivers. Change cannot happen alone.
Partnerships with other organizations are a foundational understanding at the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD). To protect Lake Michigan, we need the input and help of others. Sometimes, these partners start out as adversaries.
An adversarial start is always the hardest, because it starts with an ingrained feeling of distrust. One such partner was the Milwaukee Riverkeeper. I believe that these are some phenomenal people. Their passion for our rivers and the Lake is unprecedented. When I started at MMSD, we had continuous arguments with the Milwaukee Riverkeeper. In my mind, there was justification on both sides for these disputes. Unfortunately, all the energy and resources spent on disagreeing detracted from efforts to protect our water resources.
It wasn’t until we moved beyond some hard issues (that were sometimes settled in court) that we all realized that a partnership would bring greater rewards. MMSD had to understand that the Milwaukee Riverkeeper has a great voice for cleaner water, and the Milwaukee Riverkeeper had to realize that MMSD had made great strides and was one of the nation’s leading wastewater utilities. Fortunately for Lake Michigan, we came to this realization.
Today, I look to the Milwaukee Riverkeeper to help us continue down the road toward a cleaner environment. They have many initiatives, but their Annual River Cleanup and the Adopt-a-River Program are particularly amazing.
The initial year of the Adopt-a-River Program in 2017 started out strongly, with 332 people collecting 2,860 pounds of trash. In 2019, there were 1,191 volunteers who collected 18,540 pounds of trash – a meteoric rise that reduced the amount of trash that MMSD’s river skimmer had to collect. MMSD would have been unable to replicate this success if we had started this program alone.
MMSD is blessed with many partners that have become friends. We also have those who have not. These are our new partners of the future.
Participants in Milwaukee Riverkeeper's Annual Spring Cleanup pick up garbage and debris. (Photo Credit: Milwaukee Riverkeeper)
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Save the date for the 2020 Spring Cleanup on Saturday, April 18th, 2020