DNR to send Waukesha’s water request to Great Lakes states

City needs all Great Lakes states to approve its request for Lake Michigan water

The City of Waukesha’s request to tap Great Lakes water will be forwarded to Great Lakes states and provinces for review early next year, the city’s water utility announced.

The DNR provided an official notice on Tuesday that it will forward Waukesha’s request under the Great Lakes Compact within 30 to 60 days.

Waukesha water

The DNR had issued a draft document in June that said Waukesha meets the requirements of the compact.

Waukesha is under a court order to improve the quality of its water supply. The city’s water supply has unacceptably high levels of radium, which increases the risk of cancer. Most of the city’s water comes from the deep aquifer, which has been drawn down by Waukesha and other communities in the region.

“The families of Waukesha need a sustainable and healthy water supply,” Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly said. “We are ahead of schedule in our aggressive water conservation plan, but water conservation does not alleviate the need for a new water supply.”

Waukesha officials have determined that Lake Michigan is the best option for its water needs. Waukesha reached a deal with Oak Creek to provide it with Lake Michigan water.

Under the Great Lakes Compact, which was adopted in 2008, Waukesha needs all of the Great Lakes states to approve its request for Lake Michigan water. It must show that Lake Michigan is the only solution to its water problems, and it must return treated wastewater to the lake.

Waukesha’s treated wastewater would be returned to Lake Michigan via the Root River.

Waukesha officials say the city’s plan would withdraw no more than an annual average of 10.1 million gallons per day from Lake Michigan via pipeline. Waukesha will return the same volume of water to Lake Michigan, city officials say.

“Waukesha’s request will have no impact on lake levels,” Reilly said.

Under the Great Lakes Compact the only communities outside of the Great Lakes basin that can apply for diversions of Great Lakes water are those in counties that straddle the subcontinental divide at the edge of the basin, such as Waukesha County.

“Approval of Waukesha’s request would not set a precedent for water to go to faraway places like California,” Reilly said. “The compact strictly forbids water from being pumped beyond counties that straddle the Great Lakes Basin divide. It also requires that the water we borrow be returned, ensuring no harm to the lakes. This is not a question of choosing between protection of the Great Lakes and safe drinking water for Waukesha. The compact provides for both. We believe an unbiased and science based compact regional review will show our application should be approved.”

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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