An Alternative to Waukesha’s Diversion

Our Coalition’s alternative solution will save residents $150M, better protect the environment

waukesha-graphicIn June, the DNR released its long-awaited preliminary decision on Waukesha’s application for Lake Michigan water under the Great Lakes Compact. Not surprisingly, the DNR has tentatively OK’d the application, supporting Waukesha’s contention that it has no other option for dealing with its groundwater quality and quantity issues. But on July 9, Clean Wisconsin, as part of the Compact Implementation Coalition, a broad coalition of stakeholders interested in this precedent-setting issue, released its own Non-Diversion Solution that proves Waukesha does have a better option. Compared to Waukesha’s plan, our plan will save Waukesha residents money … without a single drop of Lake Michigan water.

Our alternative is the result of more than a year of work with two independent firms with expertise in water supply engineering, water treatment and hydrogeology. In that time, the firms analyzed Waukesha’s application, its historical and potential future water use, and the area’s geology and groundwater situation. What the experts found is that the City of Waukesha has an ample, sustainable water supply for its current service area, even taking into account future growth. The only reason Waukesha is looking to Lake Michigan water at all is to cover its desired future expansion of its service territory to include parts of four surrounding communities. However, those communities have no need, now or in the future, for a different water supply and do not qualify for Great Lakes water under the requirements of the Compact.

By taking Waukesha’s proposed expanded service area out of the equation, our experts determined that the City’s current supply is a viable alternative to Lake Michigan water. In short, Waukesha can supply its growing population with safe, clean water, now and in the future, by blending deep- and shallow-aquifer water and updating its outdated technology to “best available” technology for removing radium and other contaminants. Our solution will save Waukesha residents $150 million compared to the Great Lakes diversion, meet public health standards for radium and other contaminants, and requires no additional wells, which means there is no environmental impact to surrounding wetlands, surface waters or the deep water aquifer.

Our Non-Diversion Solution is just one piece of the puzzle; we have numerous concerns with Waukesha’s proposed diversion, which are detailed at our coalition’s website, But the bottom line is that Waukesha does not meet the high standards set in the Great Lakes Compact for approval to divert water outside of the Great Lakes Basin. As this is the first test of the Compact, it is critically important that the Compact we all fought for is upheld, ensuring that only communities that can truly demonstrate they need Great Lakes water and have no other alternative should qualify to receive Great Lakes water. Waukesha cannot demonstrate that it needs the water, and its application should be denied.

The DNR’s draft decision documents are currently out for public comment, and your feedback will help shape their final decision. DNR wants to hear from the public this summer, both through written comments and at public hearings; find more details in the box at the right. We encourage you to get involved … this is our chance to defend the Compact, Lake Michigan and all our Great Lakes!