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Great Lakes Article:

Conservationists dispute Waukesha water needs
Duchniak claims city has right to Lake Michigan
By Dennis A. Shook
GM Today
Published August 24, 2005

MILWAUKEE - There is hardly a tide of support for selling Lake Michigan water to Waukesha, based on comments made Monday at a public hearing.

Only a few people out of dozens who spoke at the state Department of Natural Resources session at the State Fair Park’s Youth Center spoke in favor of the idea, which is floated in the proposed Great Lakes Basin Water Resources Compact now before the Council of Great Lakes Governors.

The proposed language in the new compact would allow a "community within a straddling county" to be served by the basin. That definition would likely include Waukesha.

Waukesha is west of the subcontinental divide that marks the western edge of the basin. But the eastern part of Waukesha County is within that basin, particularly those parts east of Sunnyslope Road in New Berlin. In fact, the subcontinental divide runs nearly through the middle of Brookfield Square.

Waukesha has a pressing problem with too much radium in its water and has sought ways to meet impending federal requirements to deal with the problem.

Waukesha Water Utility Manager Dan Duchniak was one of the few speakers advocating for the deal.

He said Waukesha could solve its radium problem if it could switch from groundwater to surface water, adding such a change would allow the shallow underground aquifer to be refilled by normal precipitation.

Duchniak has argued Waukesha is actually part of the Lake Michigan basin because its groundwater has historically flowed back to that lake. That eventually ended in the 1950s and 1960s when development caused a proliferation of wells to be drilled.

Waukesha Alderman Larry Nelson vowed to push waster conservation measures if the city was allowed to purchase Lake Michigan water.

"If we can use Lake Michigan water, it will be very good for Waukesha and the Great Lakes," he said at the hearing. "As a current alderman and candidate for mayor, I am willing to publicly commit to making conservation efforts a reality."

While Duchniak and Nelson were received politely by the large crowd, almost everyone else spoke against the straddling counties language of the proposed compact - including many Waukesha residents.

Members of several Waukesha environmental groups also spoke against the plan.

Ellen Gennrich, a Brookfield member of the Waukesha County Environmental Action League, called the Waukesha groundwater stand "phony science."

"It is inappropriate to divert our neighbor’s water resource when we guzzle up and pave over our own," she said.

Dennis A. Shook can be reached at

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