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Taking the plunge together?
Brookfield might join Waukesha in asking for Lake Michigan water
Needs for deeper wells, new well prompt consideration for joint effort
By Brandon Lorenz
GM Today
Published February 5th, 2005

BROOKFIELD - In an effort to secure the city's long-term water needs, Brookfield may join with Waukesha to apply for a diversion of water from Lake Michigan, Public Works Director Tom Grisa said Thursday.

"We have had a number of meetings about what to do if Waukesha goes after Lake Michigan water," said Grisa.

About half of the city's 22 wells pump water from deep aquifers, which have been dropping about 6 feet annually, Grisa said. Two of the city's deep wells also exceed the federal limits on radium, requiring the city to spend about $800,000 a year to remove the radioactive element.

The city will need at least one new well by 2010 to meet its water needs, according to city plans. While Grisa said he is confident the city will be able to find suitable wells, the city may explore diverting water from Lake Michigan, he said.

Water diversion from the lake basin is governed by the Council of Great Lakes Governors in Chicago. Communities that lie outside the basin need the approval from the group to remove water from the basin.

Residents who live east of Calhoun Road in Brookfield lie within the basin and could receive Lake Michigan water. The city of Waukesha, on the other hand, lies west of the divide and cannot get access to the water without approval.

Waukesha Water Utility Manager Dan Duchniak said the city has not made a request for the water but is waiting to see how the Council of Great Lakes Governors revises the rules for water diversion. The set of rules is called Annex 2001.

That process could be complete by the summer, said David Naftzger, executive director of the Council of Great Lakes Governors.

But Duchniak said a joint application makes sense because it would allay fears that dozens of communities could deluge the council with diversion requests.

"If we choose to go down that road, one of the questions that has always been out there is, if we allow access for Waukesha, isn't that just going to open the door for other communities and it would snowball," Duchniak said.

Grisa said cooperating would also reduce infrastructure costs because the two communities could conceivably share pumping equipment.

"Technically there's not that much of an issue," said Grisa. "It's just dealing with economics and equality issues differently. People have different ideas on what is fair."

In the meantime, despite the fact that the deep sandstone aquifer beneath the city is steadily dropping, the city should not have a problem finding new sources of water, Grisa said. The only issue is cost because many of the prime well locations are either already taken or built on, he said.

"It becomes an issue of economics more than cost," Grisa said.

It costs the city about $2 to pump 1,000 gallons of water now. Pumping water from Lake Michigan would cost about $3 per 1,000 gallons, Grisa said.

But with the city facing radium problems in two wells and possible problems with a third, there may come a time when it is more cost-effective to pump water from the lake, city officials say.

"Let's look at Lake Michigan water," Grisa said. "If there is someone like Waukesha, it would make sense to pursue it regionally with them."

(Brandon Lorenz can be reached at













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