MMSD Storm Water Tree Project

Stormwater Trees

What are Stormwater Trees?

Stormwater trees help soak rainwater into the ground and hold it on their leaves and branches until it evaporates. Stormwater trees can be used in conjunction with engineered soils and other types of green infrastructure and work best to help manage water when they’re mature (and so are not a quick fix to stormwater issues). Stormwater trees also act as ‘carbon sinks’ which means they soak up carbon dioxide, one of the main gasses that contribute to climate change. To learn more about how trees can help manage water in your landscapes and in our communities read this article by horticulturist and arborist, Melinda Myers. 

Benefits of Stormwater Trees

  • soak up rainwater before it enters our sewer pipes and rivers
  • fight climate change
  • reduce flooding
  • reduce air pollution
  • improve health
  • provide oxygen
  • make the community look nice

Stormwater Tree Installation & Care

Visit Fresh Coast Guardians for stormwater tree installation and care information.

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Milwaukee Stormwater Tree Project

With our climate changing, Milwaukee can expect more intense rain, bigger storms, and changes in temperature. With intense rain, all the house, street, and sidewalk runoff can overwhelm our sewer system. Stormwater trees are part of Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s (MMSD) green infrastructure solutions to managing rainwater and improving water quality in our urban waterways. 

In 2020 and 2021, over 400 trees were planted in a 2-mile square area on the northwest side of Milwaukee with an additional 100 trees anticipated to be planted in 2021 as part of the “Improving Our Neighborhood One Tree At A Time” project. These trees can soak up over 255,540 gallons of stormwater in any given storm and help improve air quality by removing 4.58 million pounds of carbon dioxide every year (the gas that causes climate change). 

The “Improving Our Neighborhood One Tree At A Time” program increases community resilience through improved tree canopies. This program goes beyond a traditional planting program and targets both public and private properties in a socially and economically vulnerable community (85% minorities with 33% of residents living at or below the federal poverty line).

This program gave neighbors the ability to drive decisions on community investments. Through robust bilateral communication, neighbors learned the importance of trees, the impact of climate change on our region, and used their voices to shape their neighborhood.  This program directly engaged over 300 residents in workshops, tree hikes, and community meetings. The residents decided what trees to plant, what educational information should accompany the new trees in public spaces, and committed to individual behavior changes to improve our waterways.

To support individual behavior change, residents that participated in the program through events and workshops were able to receive a free tree and/or rain barrel for their home. 60 rain barrels and 49 trees were given away to neighbors.

The “Improving Our Neighborhood One Tree At A Time” project received a National Environmental Achievement Award from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, which recognizes public agencies for their outstanding efforts under the Operations and Environmental Performance category. The project also won an International Gold Leaf Award through the Wisconsin Arborist Association.

Partnering with MMSD, was the City of Milwaukee Forestry Division, Milwaukee Plays, Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee's Choice Neighborhood Initiative, and Havenswoods Neighborhood Partnership.  This project was funded in part by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and U.S. Forest Service. For more information about this project please contact us.


More Ways to Benefit Your Community

Rain Garden in a yard

Plant a Rain Garden

Rain gardens help reduce sewer overflows and water pollution by absorbing stormwater runoff from hard surfaces into the ground naturally. Learn how to plant a rain garden and help protect Lake Michigan.

Install a Milwaukee Rain Barrel

Install a Rain Barrel

Get FREE water by the barrel from your roof and use it when it’s dry outside to use in your landscape.  Rain barrels help keep excess water out of the sewer system and help reduce water pollution. 

MMSD Water Drop Alert

Text: WATERDROP to 414-296-4422 for Española texto GOTADEAGUA a 414-296-4422

Receive Water Drop Alert text messages when heavy rain threatens the area. When a Water Drop Alert has been issued, a reminder is sent to use less water.

What do you do when an alert is issued?

  • Hold off on washing dishes and laundry
  • Take a shorter shower 
  • Empty your rain barrel