Last Updated: 04/11/2022

Latest Update

3/22/2022 Update:
Residents have requested to continue to view the Final Draft Report for the Spring Harbor Watershed Study. The Spring Harbor Watershed Study Final Draft Report, dated October, 2021, was posted online during the 30-day comment period which ended on March 4, 2022. Comments received by March 4, 2022 will be included in the appendix that will be in the Final Report. An updated report will be posted once modifications to the report are completed based on public comments.

A 4th Public Information Meeting will be held to address some of the common questions received during the Public Comment Period. Once a date is selected, we will send postcards to the residents in the watershed and post the information to this website.

Project Overview

The City of Madison will complete a watershed study in the Spring Harbor watershed (as shown below). The watershed study will identify causes of existing flooding and then look at potential solutions to try to reduce flooding. The study will use computer models to assist with the evaluations. A local engineering consultant, Advanced Engineering and Environmental, will complete the study. For more information please see the Flash Flooding Story Map. For a brief summary about how the flood model was built, and to see the flood model results, visit the Spring Harbor Flood Model Results Story Map. 

*Note: Please view the story maps using Firefox or Google Chrome browsers. Story maps are not viewable with Internet Explorer.

During the June 30, 2021 Spring Harbor Watershed Study Public Information Meeting attendees asked several questions about the effects of the proposed solutions on erosion in City greenways and/or scouring at the harbor/outfall. City staff compiled a Frequently Asked Questions document to answer these questions: Spring Harbor Outfall Repair and Dredge FAQ. PDF  For more information about the related projects, you can view the Spring Harbor Outfall Repair project and the Spring Harbor Dredge project webpages. 

Help the City understand what you want to prioritize flooding projects. Please take our survey and learn more about how we're working to prioritize stormwater improvement projects in our community. Spring Harbor Watershed Map. Watershed extends from southwest of West Towne Mall, northeast to Spring Harbor.
The Spring Harbor watershed drains toward Spring Harbor on Lake Mendota.

Still have questions? Get some answers here from our additional information page on the Watershed Studies.

Project Schedule

The watershed studies take 18-24 months to complete.  The first studies will take longer as the City works through the best processes and approaches for this new flood study initiative.

Public Involvement

There are a number of points of contact during this project where the public is encouraged to give feedback as part of public information meetings and public hearings. Dates and times are indicated below:

Public Information Meetings

Focus Group Meetings

In the summer and fall of 2019, the City of Madison Engineering Division hosted a variety of focus groups for known flooding areas within the watershed. 
Map of focus groups set in the spring harbor watershed. Areas include West Towne Pond, Oakwood village Association, Marbella Condo Association, Mineral Point Park to Owen Park, Regent St Burneet Dr & Calumet Cir, Owen Park Concrete Channel, Bordner Park, and the Spring Harbor Neighborhood Association.
The following focus group meetings occurred in this watershed: 

  • Mineral Point Park to Owen Park, 4-5 p.m., Aug. 28, 2019 Corner of Quarterdeck Dr and the bike path,  about 150 feet north of the intersection of Landfall Dr and Quarterdeck Dr on the east side of the street
  • Owen Park Concrete Channel, 6-7 p.m., Aug. 29, 2019 Corner of Forsythia Pl. and Bordner Drive
  • Regent Street, Burnett Drive and Calumet Circle, 4-5 p.m., Aug. 29, 2019 Corner of Burnett Drive and S. Kenosha Drive
  • Marbella Condo Association, 2-3 p.m., Aug. 30, 2019 Outside Marbella Tennis Court gates near corner of South Yellowstone Drive and Mineral Point Road
  • Oakwood Village Association, 2-3 p.m., Sept. 18, 2019 inside meeting room of Oakwood Village Center for Arts and Education
  • Bordner Park, 6-7 p.m., Sept. 19, 2019 Bordner Park Playground, 5600 Elder Place in center of park
  • West Towne Pond, 3-4 p.m., Sept. 16, 2019 Schwoegler Park Towne Lanes Banquet Hall, 444 Grand Canyon Drive
  • Spring Harbor Neighborhood Association, 5-6 p.m., Oct. 3, 2019 Spring Harbor Park Playground (corner of Spring Harbor Drive and Lake Mendota Drive)

Additionally, people within focus groups were involved in breakout sessions during the second public meeting on February 24, 2020. Residents were able to sit with engineering staff to provide feedback on where the drainage model predicted flooding during certain rain events.

Existing Conditions Flood Mapping

The watershed model evaluated numerous design storm events.  The City created an online viewer for the 1% chance (100-yr) storm event.  It can be found here.

Proposed Flood Reduction Solutions

The watershed study resulted in many proposed flood reduction solutions.  These solutions are concepts and show what it would take to meet the City's flood reduction targets.  Only solutions included in the Capital Improvement Program budget are in process of design or construction; public outreach efforts are conducted for those projects separately from this study.  The map below shows the locations and extents of the proposed solutions.  Concepts for individual solutions can be found in the Draft Final Report posted above.

This map shows the locations of the proposed flood reduction solutions for the Spring Harbor Watershed.  The background is an aerial photo.  The watershed outline is in blue.  Yellow rectangles show the location of the solutions.
Spring Harbor Watershed Study Proposed Flood Reduction Solutions


The City of Madison has 22 watersheds. Watersheds  are an area of land that drain to the same location (the outlet).

There is a stormwater drainage system in all watersheds. This system is what conveys the stormwater to the outlet of the watershed. The current statistics on the City of Madison's stormwater drainage system can be found on the Stormwater webpage.

The City's system dates back to the 1880s. Very few, if any, standards were available in the 1880s. As the City developed, so did the guidance for design and construction. Today, we have comprehensive City, State, and Federal regulations to guide design and construction. The area of the City you live in used the regulations in place at the time it was developed. You can view the StoryMap  to see what the regulations were for your neighborhood.

The extreme storm events in 2018 shed light on the deficiencies of the City’s stormwater drainage system. Many areas of the City experienced devastating flooding. This prompted the City to begin a comprehensive watershed study program in 2019. The intent of the program is to study each of the City’s watersheds one-by-one. The studies will help us to understand the causes of flooding. The studies will also provide recommended solutions to reduce the risk of flooding.

The watershed studies result in a list of proposed mitigation measures. Once constructed, the measures will reduce the risk of flooding to specific areas of the City. These mitigation measures are generally very costly. Due to limited stormwater management funding, all the mitigation measures cannot be implemented at one time.

The average Stormwater Utility Capital Budget each year is approximately $12 million. Within that, an average of about $2.4 million is used for flood mitigation. As of late 2021, recommended flood mitigation measures for the first five watershed studies were identified. The total cost from the first five studies is approximately $125 million. We expect the remaining 17 watershed studies will have similar flood mitigation project needs. Implementation of these flood mitigation measures will take many decades.

The Stormwater Utility funds the stormwater management for the City. This includes the construction, operation, and maintenance of the entire stormwater drainage system. The Stormwater Utility rates are set each year consistent with Wisconsin Statute. § 66.0821(4)  and as described in Madison General Ordinance section 37.05 . These rates are under the purview of the public service commission. The rates are required to be deemed “reasonable” to comply with state statute. During the annual budgeting process, the City tries to balance the stormwater needs with the stormwater rate charged to its customers. These needs include:

  • Implementation of flood mitigation measures
  • Replacement, extension, and upgrades of existing the existing stormwater system
  • Mandated water quality needs and requirements

When possible, the City attempts to get grant funding to partially fund the flood mitigation measures. Grant funding makes up a small part of the funding needed for stormwater management.

The City has created a draft prioritization process. This process creates a proposed order to construct the flood mitigation measures. This process accounts for many factors including:

  • Impact on emergency services,
  • Location of vulnerable populations,
  • If the project also improves stormwater quality,
  • Whether other projects are occurring nearby, and
  • If outside funding is available.

Additional Resources

Report Flooding

If anyone has experienced flooding, and is willing to share with the City, please report it on the City's website. Even if a homeowner reported flooding to 2-1-1, FEMA, or a City official, the City needs standardized information to create stormwater models that show existing flooding conditions. The flood data helps the City prioritize different flood projects and future watershed studies. Please report any flooding you’ve experienced.