Tapping into lake may cost $52 million
Planners outline water options for New Berlin, urge
By CORISSA JANSEN
Article courtesy of Milwaukee
Aug. 22 2001
New Berlin - As demand for water begins to outpace
supply in this growing suburban community of 38,000, the
city's Utility Committee on Tuesday got its first glimpse
at a study that outlines ways to keep the faucets running,
plans that could include spending more than $52 million
to tap into Lake Michigan.
"We don't want to sound alarmist. You're not going to
run out of water tomorrow," said Steven H. Schultz, who
leads the water supply department at the Waukesha consulting
firm Ruekert & Mielke Inc.
However, Schultz warned that the city needs to immediately
start working on ways to supply more water to the city
- whether by drilling more municipal wells to draw more
groundwater or entering negotiations to buy Lake Michigan
According to Ruekert & Mielke's projections, the gap
between supply and demand for water is expected to grow
to 3 million gallons per day by 2020.
Schultz said the city got a preview of potential future
water problems this summer, when a lawn sprinkling ban
was put in place in mid-July as the city's water utility
came close to approaching its peak pumping capacity of
6.79 million gallons of water per day. The city now has
returned to its normal summer lawn sprinkling schedule.
With the city's largest well out of service and others
experiencing mechanical and electrical problems earlier
this summer, the city was using water from its water storage
facilities and not replenishing it at the rate it was
being used, Schultz said.
"You had a little cushion, but not much," Schultz said.
"We've got to do something to get the capacities back
up. That gap is only going to get bigger."
The water study, ordered by the Common Council last year,
outlines three major options the city could pursue to
increase its water supply.
Those options include:
- Continuing to use solely groundwater to serve the
city's current water utility customers, which over 50
years would cost about $42.65 million.
- Combining groundwater and water from Lake Michigan
at a cost of $47.82 million.
- Moving to a Lake Michigan water system for the area
of the city east of the subcontinental divide, at a
cost of $52.27 million.
International agreements generally prohibit the diversion
of water over the subcontinental divide because it would
take the water from the Great Lakes basin into another
Schultz said the city could seek Lake Michigan water
for certain areas west of the divide. Those areas lie
in either the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District
service area for 2010, or in areas that have been identified
as "ultimate" sewer service areas under MMSD's plans.
Those areas of the city, which are located generally
west of Calhoun Road, would discharge waste water into
the Lake Michigan basin once they are included in the
MMSD sewer service area. Therefore, Schultz said, it may
be possible under those circumstances to work out a deal
to divert lake water west of the divide because that water
would ultimately be returned to the Great Lakes basin.
Usage tops 3.25 million gallons
In 2000, 3.25 million gallons of water were pumped per day
from the city's current water system, which includes nine
municipal wells, three elevated storage tanks, six ground-level
storage reservoirs and about 150 miles of water mains.
However, long-term projections show that New Berlin will
need about 4.5 million gallons of water per day on average
and 10.6 million gallons per day in peak periods to provide
an adequate supply to the city's growing population, the
From a water-quality standpoint, lake water is more desirable
than remaining on groundwater, the report says, citing
high levels of radionuclides, a contaminant, and other
problems associated with continuing to drill groundwater
from the already overtaxed deep sandstone aquifer.
However, Ruekert & Mielke also says that long-term use
of groundwater is viable, as well, if the city can find
ways to balance its use of shallow and deeper sandstone
In any situation in which New Berlin would seek Lake
Michigan water, the city would likely have to enter negotiations
with the City of Milwaukee.
Milwaukee Water Works Superintendent Carrie Lewis says
Milwaukee is currently evaluating requests from New Berlin,
Germantown, Brookfield and Elm Grove for wholesale water.
The Water Works already sells Lake Michigan water to all
or part of 13 suburbs that previously relied on well water.
The Milwaukee Common Council has final approval on all
water sales from the Water Works. New Berlin Mayor Ted
Wysocki said Tuesday that he expects the city's Utility
Committee to act as soon as possible on a recommendation
to the Common Council on whether or not to pursue negotiations
"It takes so long," Wysocki said of obtaining lake water.
He added that pursuing talks does not lock New Berlin
into any deals.
Utility Committee Chairman Paul Gallagher said members
will discuss the options at the next committee meeting
in two weeks.