State advances Waukesha’s request for Lake Michigan water

Wisconsin Radio Network, January 8, 2016
Author: Andrew Beckett

The state has submitted a request to eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces, which seeks permission for Waukesha to divert drinking water from Lake Michigan.

Waukesha is located just outside Lake Michigan’s natural basin, and the approval of those governments is needed under the 2008 Great Lakes water protection agreement before it can access the water. The city has been trying for years to get permission to tap into the lakes, arguing that its owns wells are running dry. It also faces a 2018 state-imposed deadline to remove radium from its water supply. Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly called the plan the “only sustainable, healthy and cost-effective alternative” for the city to get water.

Some Great Lakes advocates have raised concerns about the proposal though. In a joint statement, Marci Smith with the National Wildlife Federation and Molly Flanagan with the Alliance for the Great Lakes said they are skeptical about Waukesha’s need to go directly to the lake for water. “Waukesha has, to date, failed to demonstrate that it needs to divert Great Lakes water-and had no other alternative-to meet its needs. In fact, independent analyses have shown that Waukesha can meet its water needs – saving upwards of $150 million – by relying on existing water supplies, removing from the application towns that do not need water, and following its own water conservation plans.”

The state of Michigan has set a public hearing for the request for February 9, while other state and provincial leaders plan to tour Waukesha and hold their own public briefings by the middle of next month.