Weighing the Impacts of Waukesha’s Lake Michigan Water Diversion Plan

Weighing the Impacts of Waukesha's Lake Michigan Water Diversion Plan - WUWM, July 28, 2015
Author: Susan Bence

Waukesha’s proposal to tap into Lake Michigan is inching forward after years of debate and revision.

The city is under federal order to secure clean water for residents because their underground source is increasing concentrated with radium, a health hazard.

The state DNR recently gave the nod to Waukesha’s application.

Now the public can comment. The task is not for the faint of heart - the document is 380 pages long and filled with graphs and scientific jargon.

Dan Duchniak is familiar with every inch of the proposal. He’s general manager of the city’s water utility.

The proposal envisions pumping in 10 million gallons of Lake Michigan water every day from Oak Creek’s utility and returning it via the Root River.

Duchniak is buoyed by the DNR’s decision to move along Waukesha’s application. “Their findings were consistent with ours that the only reasonable water supply alternative for the City of Waukesha is the Great Lakes,” he says.

But Waukesha needs the permission of all eight states and two Canadian provinces that border the Great Lakes. They signed a compact in 2008 to protect the massive freshwater system from diversions.

Waukesha can apply for an exception because it sits within a county that straddles the Great Lakes basin.

Jim Drought recently examined the utility’s application. He’s a hydrologist with the company GZA GeoEnvironmental.

A consortium called the Compact Implementation Coalition hired the firm to scrutinize the proposal... “To evaluate if there would be a reasonable alternative for using the existing water resources to meet the current project future water demands for the City of Waukesha,” he says.

Jim Drought’s analysis? Waukesha doesn’t need Lake Michigan water. The city has an ample supply in its existing well system and can effectively treat the radium.

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