Southeast Fox River Basin

The Southeast Fox River Basin is located in portions of seven counties and is home to about 500,000 people. The basin is divided into seven watersheds. Three of the watersheds (Upper, Middle and Lower Fox River) contain the Fox River from start to finish and collectively occupy nearly half the basin area (513 square miles). The other watersheds are named after the major rivers they contain. Collectively the seven watersheds contain about 750 miles of perennial streams, over 600 miles of intermittent streams, 78 named lakes and impoundments and many unnamed lakes and ponds. Wetlands encompass nearly 78,000 acres, or 11 percent of the basin land area.

Middle Fox River Watershed

The Waukesha County portion of this watershed covers 86,175 acres or approximately 134 square miles. In Waukesha County, portions of the Cities of Muskego, New Berlin, and Waukesha lie within the watershed, along with the Villages of Big Bend, Mukwonago, North Prairie, and Wales.

Concerns over water resource problems in the Fox River system including navigation, water use conflicts, water quality, flooding and drainage led to the formation of the Southeastern Wisconsin Fox River Commission.

Goals include: 

  1. Protection and rehabilitation of the water quality of the surface waters and groundwater of the Fox River Basin               
  2. Protection and enhancement of the recreational use of the navigable waters               
  3. Increasing water and boating safety on the same navigable waters

Middle Fox River Watershed

Land Use
  • Agriculture (>40%)
  • Grasslands (18%)
  • Wetlands (14%)
  • Forests (13%)
  • Urban areas (<4%)
Cold-water Communities   
  • Genesee Creek
  • Mill Brook
  • Spring Creek
  • White Creek
General Threats         
  • Construction site erosion
  • Habitat modification
  • Ditching & channelization
  • Temperature elevation
  • Storm water runoff
Conservation Efforts 
  • Streambank stabilization
  • Grassed waterways
  • Wetland restorations

Muskego-Wind Lakes Watershed

The land surface area that collectively drains into the City's lakes and connected water bodies is termed the Muskego-Wind Lakes Watershed. These water bodies include Linnie Lac, Little Muskego Lake, Bass Bay, Big Muskego Lake, and Wind Lake.

The Muskego/Wind Lakes Watershed is actually a small portion (41 square miles) of the Middle Fox River Watershed located in Waukesha, Racine, and Milwaukee Counties.

The Waukesha County portion of the watershed encompasses approximately 36 square miles and includes portions of the Cities of Muskego and New Berlin.

It was designated a “priority watershed” in 1991 under the Wisconsin Nonpoint Source Water Pollution Abatement Program. Nonpoint sources of pollution are those that cannot easily be traced to a single source such as a discharge pipe. Nonpoint source pollutants are carried off in storm water runoff from farm fields, streets, parking lots, barnyards, construction sites, and other sources.

Nonpoint Source Control Plan
The Nonpoint Source Control Plan was completed in 1993. It outlined strategies to lower the nonpoint source pollutants entering the surface waters in the watershed.
The City of Muskego is eligible for certain grant funding for projects to abate these pollution sources. Financial assistance from the Wisconsin DNR has been provided to the City for the development of a stormwater management plan, a stormwater ordinance, an erosion control ordinance, stream and shore projection projects, and community information/education project.

Overall goals included the reduction of sediment loadings by 55 percent and reducing phosphorus loading by an average 67 percent. Maintenance of stream base flow conditions was also a stated objective of the plan.

The watershed project officially closed at the end of 2005 and in the Waukesha County portion of the watershed has resulted in the development of 36 cost-share agreements primarily for reduced tillage.

Lake Michigan Basin

Root River Watershed
The Root River Watershed is located in portions of Waukesha, Milwaukee, and Racine counties and encompasses 197 square miles. Only about 13 square miles are within Waukesha County covering portions of the Cities of Muskego and New Berlin. According to the Year 2000 SEWRPC land use inventory, residential land use accounts for 46 percent of the land use in the Waukesha County portion of the watershed. Another 15 percent is agricultural and 14 percent is transportation related.

The headwaters begin in west central Milwaukee and eastern Waukesha counties. From there the river flows southeast ultimately emptying into Lake Michigan in the City of Racine. The watershed is heavily urbanized near the headwaters and mouth. However, the middle portion of the watershed has a large percentage of agricultural land use. This watershed was one of the first Priority Watershed projects funded in the state, with the initial nonpoint source control plan prepared by SEWRPC in 1980 (Planning Report No. 37). Racine County was the Lead Designated Management Agency for the project, which ended in 1990.

Water quality of the 117 miles of rivers and streams in the Root River Watershed ranges from severely degraded to good. The streams in Waukesha County are classified as supporting only a Limited Forage Fish community or Limited Aquatic Life.