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Great Lakes Article:

New Berlin, Milwaukee reach deal on water
Tentative purchase pact will go to panel, public
Corissa Jansen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

New Berlin - As the city grapples with a looming gap between supply and demand for water, officials have reached a tentative agreement with the City of Milwaukee that would allow Lake Michigan water to flow through New Berlin faucets.

But New Berlin officials say there will be much public debate before the city would enter a contract with the Milwaukee Water Works to buy purified lake water.

"We've reached a potential business agreement for Milwaukee water. . . . The terms are there," said New Berlin Mayor Ted Wysocki. "But that does not mean we've made a decision to do that."

Wysocki said that an agreement has been reached with Milwaukee after months of negotiations. But he would not disclose any details of the pact, which he said will go before the city's Utility Committee next month.

Milwaukee Water Works Superintendent Carrie Lewis could not be reached Thursday for comment.

In June, the Milwaukee Common Council voted 10-7 to grant the Water Works the authority to negotiate the sale of lake water to New Berlin, an agreement that was estimated to bring in about $608,000 a year for Milwaukee.

Supporters on the Milwaukee council argued that the Water Works has excess capacity and that increasing sales to the suburbs would help keep rates down for city customers. But critics suggested that such sales are shortsighted, allowing suburbs to grow at the expense of the city.

The Milwaukee Water Works already sells water to all or part of more than a dozen suburbs that previously drew water from wells, including Menomonee Falls and Butler. The deals are expected to net Milwaukee about $74.1 million this year.

Wysocki noted that buying Milwaukee water is only one option available to New Berlin as the city determines how to keep pace with the rising demand. According to projections, the gap between supply and demand for water is expected to grow to 3 million gallons per day by 2020, barring some type of remedy.

New Berlin officials must still debate options that include continuing to rely solely on groundwater. Wysocki noted, however, that such an option could prove too costly if the city had to start using a water treatment system to meet federal requirements for certain contaminants, including radium and iron, in New Berlin's 10 municipal wells.

"If we're forced to go deeper and deeper in our wells to find water, we will have to treat it," Wysocki said.

Commenting on ongoing negotiations, Utility Committee member Bob Dude said earlier this month that he believed the offer presented by Milwaukee is "fair and equitable," and he recommended that New Berlin move forward with it.

Citing his concerns about the city's water supply for the future, Wysocki also has requested that the committee move quickly to make a recommendation to the New Berlin Common Council.

Wysocki said this week that a Utility Committee endorsement of the Lake Michigan water proposal would set off a series of public meetings held during the day, evening and weekends to provide information to New Berlin residents.

"If we have the ability now to become a customer . . . on an agreement we can both live with, it's a win-win," Wysocki said.

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