Key Players in Wisconsin’s Water Industry

By Eelisa Jones

Navigating the Wisconsin water industry is a daunting task.

Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resource’s website lists 16 different water related topics each with an average of 4 sub-topics.

Aside from collecting and treating water that travels through our water infrastructure, the water industry is responsible for maintaining sustainable levels of use.

Every day, Wisconsin performs a delicate dance between meeting social water demand and avoiding ecological imbalance. The purpose of this article is to simplify the landslide of water industry-related information available to the public and highlight several key water-related practices that affect the residents, businesses, and industries within our state.

We will briefly revisit organizations responsible for drinking water management, touch upon the private company responsible for most waste water management in Southeastern Wisconsin, discuss the basics of commercialized water sales, and, finally, examine an institution dedicated entirely to freshwater studies.

Drinking Water Management and Regulation

Last week, The Milwaukee Courier published an overview of Milwaukee Water Works – a public utility that serves about 800 thousand accounts in Southeastern Wisconsin.

Milwaukee Water Works is part of a larger network of more then 580 drinking water utilities in Wisconsin overseen by the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC).

PSC is responsible for setting water rates, reviewing project proposals, reviewing utility finances, and establishing practices for Wisconsin’s water system.

Standards of drinking water quality are established nationally by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Most of Wisconsin’s drinking water is transported from groundwater sources known as aquifers.

Certain types of aquifer are susceptible to contamination from the earth surrounding the groundwater.

In 2012, the city of Waukesha reported that their main aquifer had become contaminated with unhealthy amounts of radium and alpha radiation – known carcinogens.

Once an aquifer has become overly contaminated, its source water is no longer a viable long-term option for the community that relies on it.

Wastewater Management & Veolia Group

Wastewater management is one Wisconsin’s last defenses against environmental pollution.

Veolia Water North America – a sector of Veolia Group based in France – is Wisconsin’s main wastewater treatment institution.

In 2008, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District contracted Veolia Milwaukee to operate and maintain Jones Island, the South Shore water reclamation facilities, and the district’s deep tunnel sewer system.

The Department of Natural Resources regulates waters that are discharged into surface and groundwater locations through its Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit program.

Commercialized Water Sales

Standards for bottled water are established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

These standards require bottled water retailers to treat water with similar standards required by the Environmental Protection Agency for public drinking water.

Most bottled water undergoes reverse-osmosis filtration which neutralizes minerals and compounds that affect the product’s taste.

Twenty-five percent of bottled water is initially collected from public drinking water.

University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences

Established in 2009, The UWM School of Freshwater sciences is the first graduate school entirely dedicated to freshwater studies in the nation.

The School of Freshwater Sciences researches and monitors the health of Lake Michigan and other important bodies of water in addition to assisting Wisconsin communities in conservation initiatives.

The school offers programs that focus on freshwater technology, human and ecosystem health, freshwater technology, and freshwater economics, policy, and management.