SEWRPC dives into region’s
water supply challenges
Two-year review will look at various streams for help
By Denna A. Shook
Published January 31st, 2005
WAUKESHA - Water problems have been an underlying current
that has made many waves in Waukesha County, whether it
be providing a water supply in New Berlin or helping solve
the radium content challenge in Waukesha.
While the county awaits solutions from larger decision-making
groups, the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission
announced this week it has decided to spend nearly $1
million on a two-year regional water supply study. The
study will consider what options exist for the county
and the region in the face of dropping water tables and
deep-well water sources that have become contaminated
by such substances as radium.
SEWRPC Executive Director Phil Evenson said the regional
water supply study was being planned anyway but acknowledged
the timing could prove important to the future of the
county and the seven-county SEWRPC region.
"This has been on our radar screen for a good number
of years, with a request from Racine, Waukesha, and Kenosha
boards to look at this," Evenson said. "We spent
the last year getting the funding to get it done and we
are ready to begin. It does come at a time when there
is heightened interest and problems are beginning to emerge."
The study also comes at a time when the city of Waukesha
is pushing for Gov. Jim Doyle’s help in its bid to get
Great Lakes water before a new set of rules is adopted.
Doyle has said he would certainly consider taking such
an application to the governors of the eight Great Lakes
states that would have to approve a diversion of Lake
Michigan water for Waukesha use.
Doyle has said he has doubts about what can be done in
the short term. But he believes the Council of Great Lakes
Governors will approve new rules for Lake Michigan water
use, known as Annex 2001, within a decade.
Evenson said the two-year SEWRPC study will involve more
than just accessing Lake Michigan water. The regional
water supply plan is intended to include several key elements:
- Development of water supply service areas and of forecast
demand for water use.
- Development of recommendations for water conservation
efforts to reduce water demand.
- Evaluation of alternative sources of supply, culminating
in identification of recommended sources of supply for
each service area and in recommendations for development
of the basic infrastructure required to deliver that supply.
- Identification of groundwater recharge areas to be
protected from incompatible development.
- Specification of any new institutional structures found
necessary to carry out the plan recommendations.
- Identification of any constraints to development levels
in areas of the region that may emanate from water supply
The study would then provide a set of recommendations
for meeting regional water needs, Evenson said.
Bob Biebel, SEWRPC’s special projects engineer on the
study, said the work will "consider the rule of Annex
2001. But we will also assume that current regulations
govern and will only look at alternatives that meet the
spirit of those rules."
Biebel added, "One of the focuses of the study will
be looking at a range of water conservation alternatives,
including the recharge of the underground water supply.
With each of the alternatives, we will look at impacts
on aquifer levels and what the impact will be on surface
He added that Lake Michigan water will also be part of
"There are ways to deal with and potentially use
Lake Michigan water," he said. "The return flow
(of waste water) is the big one. We will not focus on
the Lake Michigan supply as the primary alternative but
will also look at the use of shallow wells and treatment
of deep-aquifer wells" as possible ways to provide
a suitable water supply.
Biebel said the study will include forecasts of each
community’s water needs, along with advice on water conservation
and where future development might have to be limited
to fit the supply of water.
SEWRPC has estimated the groundwater demand west of the
subcontinental divide that runs through the county near
the Sunnyslope Road area will lower the local aquifer
level by 125 feet by the year 2020. That level has already
declined 500 feet between 1900 and 2000.