Waukesha offers to be water test case
City hopes to win approval for diversion from Great Lakes
By Darryl Enriquez and Lee Berquist
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Published December 2nd, 2004
Waukesha - With a daily need of 20 million gallons of
fresh water, Waukesha officials intend to ask Gov. Jim
Doyle early next year for his help in making this community
of 66,000 a test case for diverting Great Lakes water,
the city's water manager said Wednesday.
Troubled with declining groundwater supplies and unacceptable
levels of cancer-causing radium in its drinking water,
the city is on the hunt for new water sources to serve
its growing population and established industries.
Lake Michigan is only about 20 miles east of Waukesha,
but the historical reluctance of regulators of Great Lakes
resources to divert water to communities outside lake
drainage areas makes the city's pursuit a dicey one.
Waukesha is west of the subcontinental divide, which
puts it outside the Great Lakes drainage basin. The boundary
generally follows Sunny Slope Road in Waukesha County.
But new rules for water diversion called Annex 2001 are
coming together, and they could provide a chance for communities
such as Waukesha to get Great Lakes water.
Dan Duchniak, Waukesha Water Utility general manager,
said he wants Waukesha to be the "pilot community"
in which Great Lakes regulators apply policies being considered
by Annex 2001.
"I want them to use us as a test case for the process,
and we'll see what happens," Duchniak said.
Doyle is co-chairman and one of eight governors from
states within the Great Lakes Basin that make up the Council
of Great Lakes Governors,
Waukesha's request would go to Doyle, who could then
send it to the council to be reviewed by governors of
other Great Lakes states, an official with the state Department
of Natural Resources said Wednesday.
Because Waukesha has been making its case for more than
a year, the city is viewed as the leading candidate for
a test case on whether a community outside the Great Lakes
Basin can tap into the lakes as a source of water. Only
two other out-of-basin communities have been successful
in getting water from the lakes in recent decades: Pleasant
Prairie in Kenosha County and Akron, Ohio.
The basin is key because in 1986, Congress passed the
Water Resources Development Act, which required the governors
of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana,
Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York to unanimously approve
any water diversions outside the boundary.
New rules considered
The proposed governors' agreement includes these highlights:
Authority over the Great Lakes would remain in the states
and the two Canadian provinces that border the lakes.
Inside the basin, Great Lakes governors would have to
review any new request to use 5 million gallons a day
or more that will not be returned to the lake. This would
also apply to any existing user that wanted to increase
water use by that much.
Outside the basin, Great Lakes governors would have to
review any request for 1 million gallons a day. All eight
governors would have to agree to the water use.
Anyone asking for water outside the basin would have
to demonstrate that they needed the water and couldn't
find it elsewhere. They also must agree to return the
water after treatment and fund water restoration projects.
When it makes an application to tap Lake Michigan, Waukesha's
plan does not call for returning water directly back to
The city would continue to discharge the water into the
Fox River, rather than running it through its sewage treatment
plant and piping back to Lake Michigan.
The Fox River lies outside the Great Lakes basin, and
river water flows into the Mississippi River.
Waukesha plans to argue that it will return Lake Michigan
water another way: Reducing the pumping of groundwater
in Waukesha would allow groundwater to change direction
and flow back to the lake and replenish Lake Michigan,
Also, he said that the Fox River ecosystem depends on
Waukesha's millions of gallons of treated wastewater to
keep flowing into the river.