The Great Lakes Compact may be put to the test soon as the city of Waukesha, Wisconsin seeks permission to tap Lake Michigan’s water supply.
Waukesha officials moved closer to making their request this week when the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) determined that the city does not have to wait for the state government to adopt rules implementing the compact.
Milwaukee officials had argued that state rules regarding the compact should be put in place first, but the DNR says the compact itself has sufficient criteria to guide DNR staff in their review of applications like Waukesha’s.
Waukesha, which sits 14 miles inland from Lake Michigan’s shore, is seeking another source of city water due to radium contamination in city wells. Since Waukesha falls outside the Great Lakes Basin, the city must win approval from the governors of all eight states that signed the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. Before that happens, the city must find a lakeside municipality willing to sell it water—Milwaukee, Racine and Oak Creek are the current candidates—and win approval from the state DNR.
The move will be an expensive one—up to $78 million initially and nearly $5.8 million a year afterwards. But it will help the city wean itself off deep wells that are contaminated with naturally occurring radium.
Waukesha would not be the first Wisconsin city to seek Lake Michigan water to replace its radium-contaminated water supply. New Berlin, its eastern neighbor, won approval to pipe Lake Michigan water to areas of the city that fall outside the Great Lakes basin earlier this year. This followed a water purchase agreement with Milwaukee and approval from the state DNR.
Because New Berlin straddles the subcontinental divide between the Great Lakes Basin and the Mississippi River Basin, rather than falling outside the Great Lakes Basin as Waukesha does, that city does not need the approval of other Great Lakes Compact states.
Watch WaterNews for more updates on the Great Lakes Compact, including our upcoming series by reporter Steve Kellman.
Source: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel