New Berlin tackles water supply questions
Pursue negotiations with Milwaukee, panel says
By CORISSA JANSEN
Article courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
September 26, 2001
New Berlin - Faced with projected gaps between
supply and demand for water in this growing suburban community,
the city's Utility Committee has recommended pursuing
negotiations with Milwaukee for the potential purchase
of Lake Michigan water.
The committee's chairman, Ald. Paul Gallagher, noted
that obtaining lake water could take years and said New
Berlin must begin negotiations immediately if it wants
to keep all its options open.
"We need to do something with our water," Gallagher said.
"We don't have enough capacity right now, and we need
to know if we need to look at building more wells or look
at Milwaukee water."
Milwaukee is evaluating requests from New Berlin, Germantown,
Brookfield and Elm Grove for wholesale lake water. The
Milwaukee Water Works already sells Lake Michigan water
to all or part of 13 suburbs that previously relied on
The New Berlin Common Council was debating the Utility
Committee recommendation late Tuesday, and it had not
voted by the Journal Sentinel deadline.
The City of Milwaukee isn't the only hurdle New Berlin
officials might have to clear to get Lake Michigan water.
Last week, Utility Committee members voted unanimously
to authorize city staff to develop a proposal to the Council
of Great Lakes Governors. That agency reviews and approves
diversions of Great Lakes water within the United States.
New Berlin's studies have not yet determined which parts
of the city would be served by lake water and how much
water would be drawn. But if the city decided to pursue
obtaining lake water, it would need permission from the
eight governors of the council if it wanted to divert
more than 5 million gallons a day from the Great Lakes
And under Annex 2001, a amendment in the works to the
Great Lakes Charter of 1985, withdrawal of more than 1
million gallons a day would trigger an automatic review.
Gallagher said approving negotiations with Milwaukee
for lake water is necessary as the city considers three
major options to increase its water supply.
Those options include using solely groundwater to serve
current water utility customers, which over 50 years would
cost about $42.6 million; combining groundwater and lake
water at a cost of $47.8 million; or moving to a Lake
Michigan water system for the area of the city east of
the subcontinental divide at a cost of about $52.3 million.
According to projections, the gap between supply and
demand for water is expected to grow to 3 million gallons
per day by 2020.
Gallagher said it looks to him as though staying on municipal
wells might be the most economical option because the
construction work necessary to switch to lake water could
prove to be too expensive.
"And it's a control issue. We don't want to be controlled
by anyone else," Gallagher said. "If we're sure our wells
can support it, we'll stay on wells."
Ald. David Ament said that despite the Utility Committee's
unanimous vote to pursue negotiations for lake water,
the city has made "absolutely no commitments."
"I don't like the word negotiations, because it
implies that we've decided to have Milwaukee water and
we're just looking for our best deal," he said. "That's
not what we're trying to do. . . . We're just making the
initial contacts to let them know we're interested and
that we'd like to look at what's available."