In 1979, the Commission completed and adopted a regional water quality management plan. The plan was designed, in part, to meet the Congressional mandate that the waters of the United States be made “fishable and swimmable” to the extent practical. It is set forth in SEWRPC Planning Report No. 30, A Regional Water Quality Management Plan for Southeastern Wisconsin, Volume One, Inventory Findings; Volume Two, Alternative Plans; and Volume Three, Recommended Plan, July 1979.
The regional water quality management plan provides recommendations for the control of water pollution from such point sources as sewage treatment plants, points of separate and combined sewer overflow, and industrial waste outfalls. It also recommends controlling such nonpoint sources as urban and rural stormwater runoff. In addition to clear and concise recommendations for the control of water pollution, the plan provides the basis for:
- Continued eligibility of local units of government for Federal and State loans and grants in partial support of sewerage system development and redevelopment;
- Issuance of waste discharge permits by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR);
- Review and approval of public sanitary sewer extensions by the WDNR (more here); and
- Review and approval of private sanitary sewer extensions and large onsite sewage disposal systems and holding tanks by the Wisconsin Department of Commerce (more here).
Subsequently, the Commission completed a report documenting the updated content and implementation status of the regional water quality management plan as amended over approximately its first 15 years: SEWRPC Memorandum Report No. 93, A Regional Water Quality Management Plan for Southeastern Wisconsin: An Update and Status Report, Part 1
, Part 2
, Part 3
, March 1995. This status report also documents the extent of progress which had been made toward meeting the water use objectives and supporting water quality standards set forth in the regional plan.
Major Plan Update: 2007
From the last quarter of 2003 through December 2007, SEWRPC prepared an update of the regional water quality management plan for the Greater Milwaukee Watersheds shown here
. The civil divisions within the study area are shown here
The effort was coordinated with a parallel sewerage facilities planning program carried out by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) and was designed to utilize the watershed approach consistent with historic SEWRPC practice and evolving U.S. Environmental Protection Agency policies.
The approach to carrying out the regional water quality management plan update and the MMSD facilities planning program in a coordinated manner was developed cooperatively by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), MMSD, and SEWRPC, and was formalized under a Memorandum of Understanding.
The regional water quality management plan update resulted in the reevaluation and, as necessary, revision of the three major elements comprising the original plan—the land use element, the point source pollution abatement element, and the nonpoint source pollution abatement element. In addition, a groundwater element was added based largely upon companion work programs. The interagency planning process used in this effort is shown here
The plan updating effort involved a significant public involvement program in cooperation with the MMSD. The work effort was conducted under the guidance of the SEWRPC Advisory Committee on Regional Water Quality Management
. In addition, in cooperation with the MMSD, the regional water quality management plan update work was reviewed with a Citizens Advisory Council and was presented at forums of elected officials.
The major planning updating effort, at the time the subject of a series of public hearings, was adopted by SEWRPC in 2007. The updated plan is set forth in SEWRPC Planning Report No. 50, A Regional Water Quality Management Plan Update for the Greater Milwaukee Watersheds
, Part One - Chapters 1-12
, Part Two- Appendices
, Supplement to Part Two - Appendices C-F
, December 2007, and includes the May, 2013 Amendment. A plan summary may be found here
Milwaukee and Rock River Basin TMDLs
Under the CWA, states are required to develop total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) to address impaired waterbodies that are not meeting water quality standards and not achieving their designated uses. A TMDL includes both a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still meet water quality standards and an allocation of that load among the various sources of that pollutant. The TMDL must also account for seasonal variations in water quality and include a margin of safety to account for uncertainty in predicting how well pollutant reductions will result in meeting water quality standards.
A TMDL allocates the allowable load between a wasteload allocation for point sources such as municipal wastewater treatment plants, industrial dischargers, concentrated animal feeding operations, and municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s); a load allocation for nonpoint sources such as agricultural sources, urban sources not covered under a discharge permit, and natural background loads; and a margin of safety. Wasteload allocations are implemented through limits established in discharge permits under the Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES). Load allocations are implemented through a wide variety of Federal, State, and local programs as well as voluntary action by citizens. These programs may include regulatory, non-regulatory, or incentive-based elements, depending on the program. Implementation of load allocations is typically an adaptive process, requiring the collaboration of diverse stakeholders and the prioritization and targeting of available programmatic, regulatory, financial, and technical resources.
The Milwaukee River Basin TMDL was approved by the Wisconsin DNR and EPA in 2018 and the Rock River Basin TMDL was approved in 2012. The reports can be found at https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/TMDLs/TMDLReports.html. The Milwaukee River Basin TMDL established wasteload allocations and load allocations for fecal coliform bacteria, total phosphorus, and total suspended solids. The Rock River Basin TMDL established wasteload allocations and load reductions for total phosphorus and total suspended solids. These TMDLs have been incorporated in the regional water quality management plan by the following resolutions.
Milwaukee River Basin TMDL Resolution 2018-21
Rock River Basin TMDL Resolution 2018-20
Planning Related to Implementation
Root River Watershed Restoration Plan
This is a second level plan that was prepared by SEWRPC in response to a request from Racine County, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), the Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust, Inc. (Sweet Water), and the Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network (Root-Pike WIN). This plan was prepared in the context of the SEWRPC regional water quality management plan update for the greater Milwaukee watersheds. More information on this plan can be found here.
Below are useful links for water quality planning, resource materials and activities related to the regional water quality management plan update: