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Great Lakes Article:

Proposed water deal garners support
New Berlin residents may weigh in at tonight's public hearing
Corissa Jansen
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

New Berlin - With public opinion on a potential deal to purchase Lake Michigan water swaying toward "overwhelmingly positive," city residents will have one last chance tonight to weigh in on the city's possible solution to anticipated drinking water woes.

A public hearing on a tentative deal to buy water from the City of Milwaukee will begin at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 3805 S. Casper Drive.

With the gap between supply and demand for water in New Berlin expected to grow to 3 million gallons a day by 2020, New Berlin officials say the city needs to act soon to make sure it has an adequate water supply in years to come.

"It's more than a financial discussion at this point," said Mayor Ted Wysocki. "It's a true strategic decision as to the reliability of our future water supply."

Wysocki said tonight's public input to New Berlin's Common Council and the Utility Committee will be a factor in the Utility Committee's March 5 discussion of the potential water deal. The public's views also will be considered when the council votes, probably March 11.

At two public information meetings last month detailing the city's water situation, New Berlin residents' reaction to the Lake Michigan deal was "overwhelmingly positive," Wysocki said.

"People overwhelmingly felt it was a much better approach to guarantee a (water) supply in the future," Wysocki said.

Besides the lake water deal, city officials have also considered remaining solely on a groundwater system and building additional municipal wells to serve current water utility customers. Both solutions are expected to cost about $14.5 million.

However, some officials say they're skeptical of relying on groundwater because of water quality issues. Most of the available ground supply is in western New Berlin. That aquifer also serves surrounding communities that do not have the option to purchase lake water in the near future.

New Berlin is able to pursue a deal for Lake Michigan water because Milwaukee is initially looking to serve areas east of the subcontinental divide. Milwaukee would have to petition the Council of Great Lakes Governors if it wanted to divert lake water to west of the divide, and that petition process could take years.

New Berlin and the Milwaukee Water Works reached a tentative agreement last year that would allow lake water to flow through faucets in eastern New Berlin.

Ald. Dave Ament, a member of New Berlin's Utility Committee, also said he has heard positive comments about the possible purchase of lake water.

"It's amazing," Ament said. "I've been asking people for feedback, and from everything I've been getting, basically, people want it. . . . I have not heard from anybody that was really strongly against it."

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