Conservationists dispute Waukesha water
Duchniak claims city has right to Lake Michigan
By Dennis A. Shook
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 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
"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,"
Dennis A. Shook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org