Compact to allow Waukesha County
access to Lake Michigan water
Hurdles remain in language on return of wastewater
By Dennis A. Shook
Published November 21, 2005
WAUKESHA - Waukesha County communities will be allowed
to hook up to Lake Michigan water under the compact that
is to be signed by the Council of Great Lakes Governors
on Dec. 13 in Milwaukee.
That was confirmed in an interview Friday with The Freeman
by Dan Leistikow, spokesman for Gov. Jim Doyle.
But the question remains whether Waukesha and other communities
will seek to hook up to Lake Michigan water.
Considering the rules regarding that access, that is
anything but certain.
Leistikow confirmed that in the final compact regulating
the use of Lake Michigan water, Waukesha County would
still be considered a "straddling county," a
designation contained in a draft version of the compact.
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. Under the
new compact, that would mean that all Waukesha County
communities would be able to access Lake Michigan water.
But the hangup could be that the document still requires
the return of a like amount of wastewater to Milwaukee
that Waukesha would use.
Waukesha Water Utility Manager Dan Duchniak has said
returning the wastewater would cost "hundreds of
millions of dollars" and would be "prohibitively
Waukesha has a pressing problem with too much radium in
its water and has been seeking ways to meet impending
federal requirements to deal with the problem.
If the city is forced to try to use existing water supplies
and treat them, the increase in household water bills
could be from the current average of $196 per year to
$440 per year, based on city estimates.
The city is considering drilling shallow wells west of
Waukesha, where the water supply would not be so contaminated.
The city is also looking at possibly blending other water
sources with the contaminated water to meet the federal
standard for radium remediation.
Waukesha Mayor Carol Lombardi Friday called the news
from Doyle’s spokesman "exciting" and said she
hopes the agreement allows for groundwater recharge to
be considered in the amount of return to Milwaukee.
But the news was not received favorably by the Chicago-based
Alliance for the Great Lakes, which has been an outspoken
opponent of Waukesha tapping into Lake Michigan.
Cheryl Mendoza, manager of the group’s water conservation
programs, said, "I feel that the communities that
want a diversion will have to show they can’t meet their
needs through conservation."
Mendoza added, "I think Waukesha has a long way
to go with on-the-ground water conservation. Everything
we have heard about what Waukesha proposing - we’re adamant
that water needs to be returned, and the first step is
a serious conservation program to see if existing water
needs can be met first through conservation."
Leistikow also discussed another important distinction
in the pact, which would allow "an equivalent amount
of water to be returned to Milwaukee and not the exact
That possibly opens up an avenue for using other sources
of water for return, which could prove to be less expensive
for the city.
Duchniak said he would have to read the compact and ask
questions before he could comment.
Leistikow said the compact signing is expected to occur
at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee on Dec. 13.
Dennis A. Shook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org