Our Water Resources

Water is one of Madison's defining features. Five lakes - Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, Kegonsa, and Wingra - shape our city and offer ample opportunities for Madisonians to enjoy the outdoors. While they might be the most photogenic, our surface waters are just one type of water resource our community depends on. Our drinking water comes from a sandstone aquifer deep underground. Both groundwater and surface water begin as rain or snow, which the City of Madison takes great care to manage. Across our many agencies, the City of Madison works to be a good steward of these waters, to protect and improve water quality, support water conservation, and create welcoming public spaces along the waterfront.

An adult and two children sit on the beach overlooking the lake with sailboats in the distance.


Drinking Water

Providing clean, safe drinking water is one of the City’s most important jobs. The Madison Water Utility provides 24.5 million gallons of water to our community every day using 22 wells, 30 reservoirs, and 916 miles of interconnected pipes.

The Madison Water Utility is charged with regularly testing our water for pollutants and mitigating contaminants. More information on the water quality testing is available on their Water Quality Page. Managing our water sustainably also means conserving water. Conservation not only preserves our water resources; it also reduces the energy we use to pump water. That reduces our carbon footprint too. Conservation efforts like education, our High Efficiency Toilet Rebate program, and our work with Project Home on water conservation for low- and moderate-income households are successfully reducing water waste. In 2002, the average residential customer used 75 gallons of water each day. In 2019, that number was down to 50.8 gallons per day. Check out the Madison Water Utility's Sustainability Programs and find tools to help you track and reduce your water use.

A person catches water from a fountain in their cupped hands .



Rainwater that hits our rooftops and pavement typically runs into a storm drain and ultimately into a pond, stream, river, or lake. This water can pick up pollutants from the streets and carry those pollutants with it into our lakes. If the water can infiltrate into the ground, the plants and soils can help clean, cool, and slow the water so that it reaches our lakes naturally. Madison’s Stormwater Utility invests in detention ponds, greenways, ecological restorations, and green stormwater infrastructure like rain gardens and bioswales to prevent flooding and protect surface water quality. Madison also invests in keeping our rainwater clean through efforts that remove suspended solids and by cleaning up leaf litter to avoid sending more phosphorous to our lakes, which contributes to algae blooms. We also invest in programs like Yahara WINS to help reduce nutrient loading into our lakes from upstream.

The City’s Stormwater Management team doesn’t only look at the quality of our stormwater. It also works to manage the quantity, which has been increasing due to climate change. Climate projections indicate that Madison will become wetter in a changing climate, and we have already seen this occurring. Changing storms mean changing stormwater management needs. The City is ahead of the curve in studying exactly what this will mean for our City and what we will need in stormwater infrastructure to be resilient to a changing climate. We are studying each of Madison’s 22 watersheds to identify top needs and plan for improvements.

Wisconsin Salt Wise

The City of Madison is a member of Wisconsin Salt Wise, coalition of organizations working together to reduce salt pollution in our lakes, streams, and drinking water. The salt we use to keep roads, sidewalks, and other surfaces safe in winter and to soften the water in our homes can harm our water resources. Visit their page to learn more about how you can be Salt Wise and protect water quality by using the right amount of salt.