wider use of lake water
But diversion of Great Lakes to Western U.S. is unwise,
By Tom Held
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
April 27, 2004
Gov. Jim Doyle will consider allowing Lake Michigan water
to be shipped beyond the Great Lakes basin to Waukesha
County suburbs, but he stood firm Wednesday against any
diversion of water from the Great Lakes to Western states.
"The key is replacement," Doyle said in a pre-Earth
Day news conference outside the Milwaukee Art Museum.
"When you take it to Phoenix or Vegas, it's hard
Groups that strive to protect the Great Lakes contend
that diversion could allow too much water to be mined
from the lakes, tapping them far beyond current demand.
Doyle will have considerable influence over rules on
diversion of water from the Great Lakes as chairman of
the Council of Great Lakes Governors, a post he will assume
in July. At that time, the council will be considering
new rules covering limited use of water outside the Great
Public hearings on the revisions are expected to be held
"This will be the best chance in generations for
citizens around the Great Lakes basin to have some influence
on how we use our water resources," said Cameron
Davis, the executive director of the Great Lakes Federation.
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, the current chairman of the council,
said through a spokesman that the group is exploring "reasonable
access" to water for municipalities that are just
beyond the Great Lakes basin.
That would include Waukesha County, which sits just on
the other side of the dividing line and has been struggling
with a diminishing aquifer tainted with potentially hazardous
amounts of radium.
Neither governor was willing to say definitively on Wednesday
that he would support diversions of water to similarly
situated communities, only that the rules would be reviewed.
"We don't want to create a system that allows large-scale
diversion of water outside the basin," said Taft's
spokesman, Orest Holubec.
Diversion of water from Lake Michigan and its four sister
lakes has been governed by the Great Lakes Charter of
1985 and the Water Resources Development Act. Those rules
gave each of the eight governors on the council veto authority
over any diversion of water outside the Great Lakes basin.
To date, the governors have allowed Akron, Ohio, and
Pleasant Prairie, Wis., to draw water outside the Great
Davis said changes being proposed will be an improvement
over the current regulations.
"There really aren't any rules right now,"
Davis said. "Any one of the eight governors can say
no for any reason.
"That's not good decision-making. It's not due process."
One of the provisions expected to be included in the
new rules would require that municipalities drawing water
from the Great Lakes return cleaned wastewater to limit
any drawdown of the fresh water supply. Doyle said it
was too early to put a figure on that replacement, whether
it be gallon-for-gallon or some lower ratio.
Waukesha Mayor Carol Lombardi and water utility general
manager Dan Duchniak were in Washington, D.C., Wednesday
and could not be reached for comment. Duchniak has said
that a replacement requirement would preclude the city
from using Lake Michigan water because pumping the treated
wastewater back to Milwaukee would be too costly.
Davis said that water now flows from Lake Michigan to
Waukesha County through underground aquifers. A process
for returning some of that water back to the Lake Michigan
basin, if done correctly, would be an improvement, he
Doyle said he planned to use his position as council
chairman to protect the Great Lakes from being tapped
to solve water problems in other states, and to battle
invasive species, including the sea lamprey and the zebra
mussel. Doyle said he planned to work with federal authorities
to stop oceangoing vessels from spreading invasive species
by discharging ballast water in the Great Lakes.