Governors approve plan for Wisconsin city to draw Lake Michigan water

Posted at 2:20 PM, Jun 21, 2016

LANSING, Mich. – Governor Rick Snyder and seven other Great Lakes governors approved a new compact Tuesday to allow Waukesha, Wisconsin to begin using water directly from Lake Michigan for city water.

The new compact requires the city to return all of the water within approved upon environmental standards back to the Great Lakes.

Currently, Waukesha has been using water from wells, which are also part of the Lake Michigan Basin.  The city then treats that water and diverts it to the Mississippi River Basin.  That water has been contaminated with radium.

Waukesha is using 1.6 million gallons per day, but will now be returning that water to the Great Lakes.

“I strongly support policies that protect and conserve our greatest natural resources, and this agreement will strengthen the Great Lakes and set high standards for the future,” Snyder said in a press release. “There are a lot of emotions and politics surrounding this issue but voting yes – in cooperation with our Great Lakes neighbors – is the best way to conserve one of our greatest natural resources. Mandating strict conditions for withdrawing and returning the water sets a strong precedent for protecting the Great Lakes.”

The conditions include:

  • Ensuring approximately 100 percent of the water borrowed is restored to Lake Michigan
  • Implementing a pharmaceuticals and personal care products recycling program for the returned water
  • Protecting wetland habitats, and
  • Conducting environmental monitoring with mandatory reporting.

There is also strict enforcement language around the requirement that Waukesha must return 100 percent of the water it withdraws from Lake Michigan back to the lake. The enforcement language requires that:

  • Waukesha document the daily, monthly and annual amounts of water withdrawn and returned
  • All the other Great Lakes states be allowed to conduct audits to inspect the records, and
  • The agreement can be withdrawn by the other states at any point if conditions of the agreement are violated.

Waukesha is one of a limited number of communities eligible to apply for a withdrawal with guaranteed return system under the compact. Any community completely outside of the Great Lakes Basin, such as those in Arizona or California, are prohibited from withdrawals, according to the state.