Milwaukee Water Works to use UW-Madison’s Area Deprivation Index (ADI) in Equity Prioritization Plan

The City of Milwaukee will rely on the Area Deprivation Index to identify and prioritize disadvantaged neighborhoods for lead service line replacement, accelerating timeline to address one of the city’s urgent health inequities.

In anticipation of increased federal funding for water projects infrastructure, the Milwaukee Water Works has put forth a new plan to prioritize disadvantaged neighborhoods for lead service line replacement. Called the Equity Prioritization Plan, this project will utilize the Area Deprivation Index (ADI)–a tool developed by Dr. Amy Kind’s research team at the Center for Health Disparities Research in the School for Medicine and Public Health at UW-Madison–as the cornerstone of its metric to identify neighborhoods in greatest need of lead service line replacement.

City leadership chose to incorporate the ADI to better take into account socioeconomic factors and segregation when deciding which of the city’s remaining 65,000 lead service lines to replace first. As Milwaukee Water Works Superintendent Patrick Pauly stated, “We are basing the prioritization on the Area Deprivation Index…We’re taking into account the elevated, the incidence of elevated blood lead levels, and we’re taking into account the density of lead service lines in particular neighborhoods.” Pauly further noted that lead service lines are found primarily in Milwaukee’s near north and near south sides, communities that have the most need according to the ADI’s validated measure of socioeconomic disadvantage based on factors such as income, education, employment, and housing.

Scheduled to begin in 2024, the new plan will allow the city to remove at least 500 additional lead service lines per year. Thanks in large part to the ADI, these additional removals will happen in the neighborhoods that need them most, bringing CHDR’s research to real-world impact in Milwaukee’s communities and illustrating the Wisconsin Idea in action.