Water Passport

Water defines Milwaukee, whether it’s vast Lake Michigan to your east, the rivers and tributaries that feed it, landscaping features designed to a­­bsorb rain and runoff, or the underground pipes and chambers that m​anage storm and wastewater.

This year, the Fund for Lake Michigan invites you to use your Doors Open Milwaukee Passport to explore the relationship between Milwaukee’s water and the city’s industrial, commercial, civic, and residential development. See and experience how Milwaukee responds to, accommodates, depends on, and features its liquid abundance.

The Doors Open Water Passport was made possible with the support of the Fund for Lake Michigan. The UWM School of Freshwater Sciences and the Harbor District created the Water Passport in 2016. Historic Milwaukee is grateful for the guidance provided by these three water focused institutions to help develop this year’s Water Passport.

How to Participate 

Pick up a water passport at any of the sites listed here, or at the event headquarters (235 E Michigan St).  Participants who get their passport stamped at one or more sites should drop it off to the event headquarters (235 E Michigan St) for their chance to win a day of science with a faculty member at the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences or John Gurda’s book Milwaukee: A City Built on Water.

Water Passport Sites

Visit these three sites at 600 E Greenfield Ave
UWM School of Freshwater Sciences
The Harbor District
Sweet Water (Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust, Inc.)
Sat 10 am to 5 pm
Sun Not Open
The Harbor Campus of UWM is a focal point for research and education in water sciences and technology. Its scientists and faculty link studies of Lake Michigan, its watershed, and regional freshwaters for sustainable management and policy purposes. See the research vessel Neeskay; drive a Remotely Operated Vehicle; design your own inner harbor or beach restoration; get hands-on learning about  invasive mussels, sturgeon, and other animals; aquaculture and aquaponics, Green Bay “dead zones”, and much more. Fun for all ages and work backgrounds, see how many projects you could become involved in, and possibly get a new career idea!

Alice’s Garden
2136 N 21 St
Saturday and Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm
At Alice’s Garden, all water is sacred water. The garden is in the midst of a project that will enable them to harvest water from the playground of the school right next to the garden, filter it, store it, and then use it to water crops. Harvesting, conserving, honoring the sacredness of water is a core value at Alice’s Garden. View https://vimeo.com/225115743 to learn more.

Anderson Municipal Building / Lake Tower
4001 S 6 St
Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday Not Open
Founded in 1838, the Town of Lake grew rapidly in the 20th century and was in need of a city hall and an independent water system. In the mid-30s the Town of Lake hired West Allis engineer William D. Darby who designed a combination water tower municipal building. This 1940 Art Deco building is now home to Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood Services and no longer holds water.

Escuela Verde
3628 W Pierce St
Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday Not Open
Escuela Verde (EV) is located on the Menomonee River and is deeply committed to improving, learning about, and working with water. The school incorporates water issues and water justice into curriculum. For example, last year EV was part of a semester-long Citizen Science program where our students collected data from all three rivers in Milwaukee (Kinnickinnic, Menomonee, & Milwaukee Rivers), and the data was used for state monitoring. Students have learned about water equity through a Dakota Access Pipeline unit in effort to spark water activism. Students utilize the Menomonee River everyday for wellness to relax and connect with nature. This year, water is a curricular theme and the student-designed school mascot will be based on connection with water. The school has offered many workshops related to water, such as fishing, swimming, field research, water protectors, gardening and much more.

Global Water Center
247 W Freshwater Way
Sat 10 am to 5 pm
Sun Not Open
The Global Water Center houses water-centric research facilities for universities, existing water-related companies and accelerator space for new, emerging water technology companies. With over 40 tenant organizations, the GWC continues to be a magnet for foreign dignitaries, water technology businesses, economic development organizations, and students from all levels. The GWC established a highly visible headquarter base for The Water Council and a platform to grow Wisconsin’s water technology cluster.

Jones Island Water Reclamation Facility
700 E Jones St
Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday Not Open
Opened in 1926, this facility was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1974. World-renowned for pioneering the way in modern wastewater treatment technology, Jones Island was also one of the first facilities in the world to produce a fertilizer as the by-product of the water reclamation process: Milorganite. Capable of treating more than 300 million gallons a day, the facility is owned and governed by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and operated and maintained by Veolia North America.

Kilbourn Ave Bascule Bridge
101 E Kilbourn Ave
Sat 10 am to 5 pm
Sun 10 am to 5 pm
The Kilbourn Avenue Bascule Bridge is Milwaukee’s most architecturally prominent bridge. In Milwaukee’s past, economy and utility had been paramount in bridge design until the administration of Mayor David Rose, the first official known to make a plea for bridge aesthetics. See how a bridge works from the bridge operator’s perspective. There will be 2-3 openings per hour during the event.

Meetinghouse, Milwaukee Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
3224 N Gordon Pl
Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday Not Open

The banks of the Milwaukee River border the Meetinghouse and Koenen Land Preserve. Learn how the river was used in early times and the effects of opening the North Avenue and Estabrook dams.  See a display about Quaker scientist Increase Lapham and a proposed canal to link the Milwaukee River to the lead region in southwestern Wisconsin.  Enjoy a giant water garden in the form of a ravine along with our efforts in woods and land restoration.  The lower paths to the river are steep while the upper paths are fairly easily traversed.  There are both community gardens and gardens mainly of native plants.

Milwaukee Brewing Company
1125 N 9th St
Saturday and Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm

Milwaukee Brewing Company was founded on principles of crafting and creating beers using the best local ingredients and suppliers in a sustainable, creative and innovative environment. In support of these values, the brewery is designed to take advantage of technical opportunities to reduce the resources required to produce beer. Brewing is fundamentally resource intensive. Large quantities of water, huge heating and cooling needs, and packaging materials are unavoidable facts of the  industry.

Milwaukee originally became the brewing capital of the world in the late 1800’s because of the ample access to fresh water, ice, and agriculture. These attributes of Milwaukee still are essential to responsible production of beer. Water is critical to the consistency of the product, and Lake Michigan is part of the largest and most consistent fresh water system in the world. This resource alone makes Milwaukee the ideal place to brew. Modern breweries typically use 3–4 times the water that actually ends up in the beer. Brewing Industry innovation centers around breweries located in fresh water-starved areas such as California and Colorado. Water is a precious resource regardless of proximity to the Great Lakes. Energy consumption involved with treating and distributing water to the brewery, and treating the waste water leaving the brewery can dramatically reduce the environmental impact of a brewery. For that reason Milwaukee Brewing Co conserves water through traditional and non-traditional methods. Learn more at: https://mkebrewing.com/about/

Milwaukee Water Works North Point Tower
2288 N Lake Dr
Sat 10 am to 5 pm
Sun Not Open
The North Point Tower was used by the Milwaukee Water Works, 1874-1963. The 175-foot tower houses a four-foot diameter vertical standpipe. The pipe absorbed pulsations from reciprocating steam engines that pumped water from Lake Michigan at the shore. The Victorian Gothic tower, designed by Charles A. Gombert, was built for $50,892. The Cream City Brick interior is clad with Wauwatosa cut limestone.

Milwaukee Water Works Kilbourn Reservoir Pumping Station
626 E North Ave
Sat 10 am to 5 pm
Sun Not Open
This 1950s-era brick building is home to three original Allis-Chalmers 20-million-gallon centrifugal pumps and giant transmission pipes, and the old scale used to weigh chlorine that disinfected water in the Kilbourn Reservoir, which was open to the air until 1979. Demand for water began a steady decline in the 1970s. The station was decommissioned in 2004, the water reservoir removed, and a hill in the park was built in its place.

Pleasant Street bridge house
400 E Pleasant St
Saturday and Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm

The City of Milwaukee developed the towerless vertical lift bridge in the 1960s. A vertical-lift, or tabletop bridge, is a movable bridge that uses a counterweight and hydraulics to raise the bridge vertically while remaining parallel with the deck. The Pleasant Street Vertical Lift Bridge was built in 1972 and was rehabilitated in 2013. See how a bridge works from a bridge operator’s perspective. There will be 2-3 openings per hour during the event.

Urban Ecology Center – Menomonee Valley Branch 
3700 W Pierce St
Sat 10 am to 5 pm
Sun Not Open
At the Urban Ecology Center, water is treated as a precious resource. The Center has two green roofs where deep rooted prairie plants help catch the water that falls on the roof and keep it from running off into the nearby Menomonee River. Permeable pavers on our roof and patio, as well as our many rain gardens surrounding the building, help with this stormwater management as well. The Center also has low flow toilets and faucets that automatically shut off when not in use, to help use less water.

The mission of the Fund for Lake Michigan is to support efforts, and in particular those in southeastern Wisconsin, that enhance the health of Lake Michigan and its shoreline and tributary river systems for the benefit of the people, plants and animals that depend upon the system for water, recreation and commerce.

Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes are among North America’s greatest natural resources, providing the Midwest with drinking water and food, as well as wonderful opportunities for recreation and commerce. The lakes are both an economic powerhouse and an invaluable environmental treasure to the citizens of Wisconsin and the Midwest. The resources of the Fund have the potential to make a profound impact on the health of Lake Michigan.