Cleaning Urban Rivers

by Daniel Weber, Ph.D, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
There are several economic benefits of a clean urban river:

  • Clean riverfront property attracts more businesses because the land can be a prime source of income for restaurants, apartments or condominiums in dense urban regions. For example, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, improvements to the local river have resulted in millions of dollars of new investment to the downtown area.
  • A cleaner river has a positive impact on neighboring property. In Denver, Colorado, 73% of the real estate agents believe that homes abutting green spaces are easier to sell.
  • In Delaware, the Mispillion River Greenway has been responsible for creating 250 jobs during the last decade.
  • In Brown County, Wisconsin, located at the confluence of the Fox River with Green Bay, an arm of Lake Michigan, 30% of the owners of businesses near the Fox River trail reported increased sales due to trail users.
  • Maintaining and enhancing urban wetlands saves taxpayer money. Approximately $3 million each year are saved due to wetland water filtration along the Alchoy River.

What can you do to help your urban waterway?

  • Join a neighborhood cleanup effort
  • Properly dispose of waste — don’t litter the river, and don’t throw trash in the street gutters (it often goes directly to urban waterways)
  • Support restoration projects that include identifying ways to limit the amount of impervious surfaces in the watershed which are source of contaminated runoff into the river
  • Plant vegetation and tress to encourage more diverse wildlife
  • Talk to your alderman or county board member