All About That Basin


2014 Spring Cleanup

Volunteers collect garbage at one of the cleanup sites in Milwukee during the 2014 Annual Spring River Cleanup Event.

Milwaukee Riverkeeper, a non-profit organization in Milwaukee, has been cleaning up your trash since 1995. The organization is committed to protecting water quality and wildlife habitat in Milwaukee’s rivers. It also advocates for responsible land use in the Menomonee and Kinnickinnic River Watersheds.

The organization’s annual river cleanup is one of the largest volunteer efforts in the state. This
year’s 20th Annual Spring River Cleanup will be held April 18 from 9 a.m. until noon at more than 50 locations throughout the Milwaukee area.

The first cleanup in 1995 attracted 100 volunteers; last year, approximately 4,000 people participated in the cleanup by picking up trash trapped in Milwaukee’s waterways. More than 7,000 bags of trash were collected.

Cheryl Nenn is a riverkeeper at Milwaukee Riverkeeper, or as she explained, the “advocate-in-chief.” Nenn sees volunteers pull tons (literally!) of trash each year from Milwaukee’s rivers. The most common finds include cigarette butts, shopping carts and plastic bags.

“A tremendous amount of waste that is coming into the rivers is coming in from us,” Nenn said. “It’s coming from the streets. It’s coming from home[s] … Depending on the location, it can be a matter of seconds, minutes, hours, also depending on the sewage system. But it does get [to our waterways].”

Nenn explained that untreated storm water (from rain or melted snow) transports litter from the streets, ditches or lawns to storm drains. In many areas of Milwaukee, the trash travels to the rivers, and Nenn and her volunteers are charged with cleaning it up.

While some stormwater and wastewater is filtered through a treatment plant, in some areas it enters municipal storm drains, follows an underground pipe system, and is discarded directly into rivers and streams.

“When you do a river clean-up … it really does get people to think differently about their own habits and hopefully make some changes,” Nenn said. “People are so disconnected from their trash and where it goes.”

river basin copy

ABOVE are the grades that the Milwaukee River Basin recieved in 2012 based on the water quality data collected by volunteer stream monitors at 100 sites throughout the basin. In 2012, the average grade for the basin was a C-, up from the D+ the basin recieved in 2011. To see the detailed reports click on the photo above.


A RIVER BASIN is a portion of land which encom- passes many streams and creeks that flow into a river, eventually leading to a larger body of water such as a lake, and eventually an ocean. A watershed refers to a smaller area of land that drains into a stream, creek or river. Many watersheds make up a basin.

THE MILWAUKEE RIVER BASIN is located in portions of seven counties and contains six watersheds: Milwaukee River North, Milwaukee River East-West and Milwaukee River South, Cedar Creek, Menomonee River and Kinnickinnic River including streams, lakes, ponds, and wetlands. The Watersheds flow into Lake Michigan and into the Atlantic ocean.

The Annual 2015 Spring River Clean-up is Saturday, April 18 at 9:00 a.m.
There are several clean-up sites located near Mount Mary’s campus along the Menomonee River. Sites include the fol- lowing areas: North Avenue, Hampton Avenue, Hoyt Park, and Hart Park. Check the website for up-to-date information and site specifics.

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