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Great Lakes Article:

Sessions set on water supply, quality
New Berlin will hold public meetings in January before deciding whether to buy water from Milwaukee
Corissa Jansen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
12/10/2002

New Berlin - Before the city decides whether to pursue a deal with the Milwaukee Water Works to buy Lake Michigan water, New Berlin officials are planning a series of public meetings to boil down extensive information on water quality and supply issues.

The public information meetings are set for Jan. 15 and 18. Fliers with information about the subject will be included with city utility bills to be mailed out the first week in January.

"This is a major thing," New Berlin Ald. Dave Ament, a member of the city's Utility Committee, said of the Common Council's upcoming vote on the potential Milwaukee water deal.

"We're not going to just make this decision," Ament added. "We want people to know what we're basing the decisions on, and letting them have some input on it."

The city's Utility Committee has been discussing water issues for more than a year, focusing on a voluminous August 2001 consultants' report that outlines three possible alternatives for future water supply in New Berlin.

The gap between supply and demand for water here is expected to grow to 3 million gallons a day by 2020, according to projections in the water study.

Possible remedies include using solely groundwater to serve current water utility customers; combining groundwater and lake water; or moving to a Lake Michigan water system for the area of the city east of the subcontinental divide.

The 50-year costs of all three options range from about $43 million to more than $52 million, according to the water study, but Mayor Ted Wysocki cautioned that the figures must be updated.

Wysocki said he's skeptical of relying solely on a groundwater supply for the city, because most groundwater available to increase water supply is in western New Berlin, in an aquifer that also serves surrounding communities.

"I'm concerned about that because the aquifer has to serve those folks out there who have no option of Lake Michigan water in the near future," Wysocki said.

The city would have to petition the Council of Great Lakes Governors if in the future New Berlin wanted to divert Lake Michigan water west of the subcontinental divide, which could be a lengthy process.

New Berlin and the Milwaukee Water Works have reached a tentative agreement that would allow lake water to flow through eastern New Berlin faucets, but the deal would need approval from both the New Berlin and Milwaukee common councils.

In summer, the Milwaukee council voted 10-7 to grant the Water Works the authority to negotiate a deal with New Berlin, which was estimated to bring in $608,000 a year for Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Water Works already sells water to all or part of more than a dozen suburbs, including Butler and Menomonee Falls.

Wysocki said the New Berlin Utility Committee organized the January public meetings because there is a lot of information for New Berlin residents to digest before city officials would pursue any water deals.

"We're going to try to distill as much of this as we can for our public," Wysocki said.

The public information meetings will be from 7 to 9 p.m. on Jan. 15 and from 9 a.m. to noon Jan. 18 at New Berlin City Hall.

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