Draw from Lake Michigan would not meet protective standards of Great Lakes Compact

MADISON — Clean Wisconsin has formally requested that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources deny the City of Waukesha’s application to replace its current public water supply with Lake Michigan water. The application for an average of 10.1 million gallons per day, if approved as written, would not set the proper precedent to manage future supply needs in communities outside the Great Lakes Basin.

“Although we adamantly believe that everyone deserves a safe, sustainable water supply, Waukesha’s application falls short of the high bar set by the Great Lakes Compact,” said Ezra Meyer, water resources specialist with Clean Wisconsin. “Being the first application of its kind, we have to be very cautious of every red flag because of the potential long-term effects this decision will have on one of our region’s most treasured resources.”

Clean Wisconsin’s formal response to Waukesha’s application was submitted Monday in partnership with Midwest Environmental Advocates, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Waukesha County Environmental Action League and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. The response highlights several causes for concern:

  • Waukesha is asking for a sharp increase over demonstrated supply needs with an average of 10.1 million gallons daily to replace the current aquifer supplies of 6.5 to 7 million gallons daily. That’s at least a 45 percent jump despite firm guidelines for conservation.
  • Areas such as the towns of Waukesha, Delafield and Pewaukee, which are included in the diversion application, currently have adequate supplies of clean, safe well water.
  • Waukesha’s replenishment strategy relies in part on sending up to 6.75 million gallons daily from the Mississippi River Basin to Lake Michigan.

“When eight states, two Canadian provinces, and the federal government came together to enact the Great Lakes Compact five years ago, water conservation was a top priority,” Meyer said. “Conservation is a core concept to define the need for a Great Lakes diversion, but it’s difficult to say Waukesha has been serious about it.”