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About the Wisconsin Water Star Community Program

Communities of all sizes, including cities, counties, villages and towns, can become Water Star Communities. Depending on the actions they are taking, a Water Star Community may be designated a Bronze, Silver or Gold Water Star Community.

The program is comprehensive and includes:

surface water ... groundwater ... habitat ... health & recreation

And crosses all areas of municipal life and include:

  • Planning and zoning
  • Physical improvements to land, shorelines and buildings
  • Municipal ordinances and policies
  • Municipal operations
  • Educational offerings
  • Community incentives and programs

Becoming a Bronze, Silver or Gold Water Star Community

  • A comprehensive listing of more than 400 actions has been developed by more than 200 professionals across Wisconsin.
  • Each action is also given points based on the amount of energy, resources and effort needed to accomplish it, on a scale of 1 - 10. This value can be found in the success story/rationale developed for each action.
  • Each action has been examined for its impact on water resources and designated as Critical, Important or as an Enhancement. Currently a municipality isn't judged on the impact, although that might be used in the future.
  • The application allows communities to only answer questions applicable to their size and context. A community not on a river or lake, for example, will not be asked questions about piers or a town with county zoning won't be asked land use questions.
  • Water Star designations are based on the percentage of available application points earned. Municipalities that have earned 40% of the possible points available are designated a Bronze Star Community, those earning 50% a Silver and those earning 65% a Gold. Considering the depth and breadth of these questions, it will be a challenge to receive even the bronze star level. Generally a bronze star community is doing a great job in at least one area, such as stormwater, groundwater or land use. Achieving a gold star is truly a sign of an exemplary all around program.
  • Successful applicants will receive a street sign identifying them as a Water Star as well as a walnut plaque for their municipal building. Electronic files of the logo will be emails for posting on their website and in printed materials.
  • Once a municipality has been designated a Water Star Community they will need to be recertified every three years. To become recertified they must have submitted at least one success story.

Gold Water Star Community Audit

Prior to being certified as a Gold Water Star Community, any municipality that has scored the required 65% or greater on the Water Star application will be audited to ensure the results accurately reflect the municipality's water resource protection efforts. The auditing process will proceed as follows:

  1. Application responses will be reviewed and a list of responses will be identified for further inquiry.
  2. Using this list, a Water Star program assistant will contact the municipal staff that submitted the application by phone and asked for additional details.
  3. Notes from interviews with municipal staff will be reviewed and assessed to determine how well they support the answers provided on the application. Scores may be adjusted either upward or downward based on the interviews. If the municipality's score remains the same after the interviews, the municipality will be confirmed as a Gold Water Star. However, Gold Star status will not be awarded if the municipality's score is adjusted and the new score is below 65%. The municipality will have an opportunity to review, discuss their answers and resubmit their application.