Waukesha Doesn’t Need Lake Michigan Water
City can responsibly treat its groundwater, at half the cost to its taxpayers.
Over the past five years, you may have heard about the city of Waukesha’s application to permanently divert water from Lake Michigan. The city’s application has dragged on for so long, it probably doesn’t seem newsworthy anymore.
I’m writing today to urge you — it is the time to pay attention.
Waukesha’s application has huge implications for the entire Great Lakes region because it is the first application to divert water under the Great Lakes Compact, the federal law ratified in 2008 designed to protect our Great Lakes from water withdrawals to areas outside of the Great Lakes Basin.
The decision on Waukesha’s application will set a precedent that either upholds these protections or allows many other out-of-basin diversions of Great Lakes water.
Unfortunately, the city of Waukesha’s application ignores other reasonable alternatives to their proposed Great Lakes diversion. In its application, Waukesha is proposing to double the size of its water service area and thereby contravening the standards of the Great Lakes Compact. By including this expanded service area, Waukesha greatly inflates the amount of water it needs and thereby tries to justify using Great Lakes water rather than local groundwater.
Unfortunately for Waukesha residents, the city’s Lake Michigan diversion plan also does so at extremely high cost to ratepayers. Waukesha Water Utility’s own 2015 budget projects a $334 million cost for its proposed Great Lakes diversion, which will increase residential utility bills from around $260 per year to almost $900 per year by 2024. All this for the sake of future, hypothetical expansion outside the city limits.
The data is in and the conclusions are clear: Waukesha can sustainably meet its current and future water needs for its water service supply area by treating existing deep groundwater wells for radium and other contaminants, without depleting its groundwater supply. And it can do this at one-half the cost to their ratepayers.
The Great Lakes are one of our region’s most important natural resources. The Great Lakes Compact was created to make sure water stays in the Great Lakes so it can continue to provide economic and recreational opportunities for our area for future generations. Waukesha’s diversion application is the first test of the Compact since it was ratified in 2008, so it’s vital that the Wisconsin DNR get this right by looking at the proposal with a critical eye, especially in light of this new information.
Waukesha Water Utility has stated many times it would like the decision concerning their proposed Great Lakes diversion to be based on sound science. Our coalition has just provided the utility and the DNR with the opportunity to do just that.
It’s time to hold Waukesha accountable for providing safe and clean water to its residents in a way that is respectful of its own residents, the Great Lakes Compact, and the Great Lakes region. Waukesha’s current application does not take the future needs of communities of Great Lakes cities like Green Bay into consideration. That is simply unacceptable.
The DNR released its draft environmental impact study and preliminary decision on Waukesha’s diversion application on June 25. Comments on both are being accepted until Aug. 28 at DNRWaukeshaDiversionApp@wisconsin.gov. We urge concerned citizens to attend hearings, submit comments and stay apprised of any further developments by visiting www.protectourgreatlakes.org.