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Great Lakes Compact

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A group representing mayors and cities in the Great Lakes region has dropped its fight against letting Waukesha, Wisconsin, draw water from Lake Michigan.

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative says it has reached a settlement with a council representing the region's eight states. The council last year granted Waukesha permission to tap the lake, which ordinarily would be prohibited because the city is outside the watershed boundary.

Waukesha needs a new water source because its groundwater is contaminated with radium.

Lake Michigan
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Representatives from the eight Great Lakes states have reaffirmed approval of Waukesha, Wisconsin's request to switch its own contaminated water supply to Lake Michigan.

The 2008 Great Lakes Compact allows such a diversion if a city is at least partly within the watershed of one of the lakes. 

Last summer, Great Lakes governors voted unanimously to allow Waukesha to draw Lake Michigan water, but the decision was appealed by the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.

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A group of cities near the Great Lakes is appealing a decision to let Waukesha, Wisconsin draw water directly from Lake Michigan. 

Waukesha asked to divert water from Lake Michigan because its own water source is contaminated. 

Great Lakes governors approved the diversion, but many Great Lakes mayors disagree. 

A group of 120 of them – members of The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative – is appealing. 

The city of Waukesha worked on their proposal for more than five years.
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The governors of the eight states bordering the Great Lakes have said "yes" to Waukesha.

The Wisconsin city will be allowed to draw up to 8.2 million gallons of water from Lake Michigan each day. The city made the request because its groundwater source is contaminated with radium.

This is the first big test of the Great Lakes Compact which was formed by the Great Lakes states eight years ago to keep the lakes' water from being diverted by thirsty cities and states outside of the Great Lakes Basin.

map of michigan
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The city of Waukesha, Wisconsin will likely find out Tuesday if it can draw water from the Great Lakes to replace its own contaminated water.

Governors from eight Great Lakes states are expected to vote on the request. Any of the states can veto the diversion. Waukesha is the first community to request a diversion since the adoption of the Great Lakes Compact in 2008.

Environmental groups and some elected officials objected to the diversion, saying it could set a bad precedent.

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Representatives from the Great Lakes and Canada met last week to consider a Wisconsin city's request to pump water from Lake Michigan.

The groundwater in Waukesha is contaminated with radium, so the city wants to draw about 10 million gallons of water from Lake Michigan daily.

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Resources Regional Body came up with a tentative plan that would reduce the number of communities in a future water service area.

Only 17 miles from Lake Michigan's shore, Waukesha, Wis. wants to replace its contaminated drinking water with water from the lake.
flickr user Rachel Kramer / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

More than 40 conservation groups across the Great Lakes are urging the region's eight governors to veto a proposal to divert water from Lake Michigan.

Waukesha, Wisconsin wants to build a pipeline to the Great Lakes, because its groundwater supply is contaminated with radium.

The federal government has ordered the city to find a new source of drinking water by 2018.

map of michigan
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The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is holding public meetings on Tuesday about a proposal to divert water from Lake Michigan.

Waukesha, Wisconsin wants to build a pipeline to the Great Lakes.

It has a radium problem in its groundwater supply. Radium occurs naturally, but it’s a carcinogen.

The city wants to divert 10.1 million gallons a day from Lake Michigan in the beginning, and up to 16.7 million gallons a day by 2050.

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Waukesha wants to build a pipeline to the Great Lakes.

The city is in southeast Wisconsin, 17 miles from Lake Michigan. It has a radium problem in its groundwater supply.

Radium occurs naturally, but it’s a carcinogen.

Dan Duchniak, general manager of the Waukesha Water Utility, says as the city’s groundwater supply has been drawn down, it’s made the high radium concentration worse.

“And ultimately the radium exceeded the federal drinking water standard and we are now under a court order to come into compliance with that, and the means by which we are going to do that is to develop a new water supply,” he says.

The city has to come up with a permanent solution for its radium problem by 2018.

Screencap from Google Maps / Google

The city of Waukesha, Wisconsin has a contamination problem in its aquifer, and the federal government has ordered the city to find a new source of drinking water by 2018.

Waukesha is just a mile and a half outside the Lake Michigan watershed, so tapping Great Lakes water seems like the most obvious solution to the city’s problem.

Photo courtesy of Central Michigan Life

The two reasons: 1) the process of moving water that far, and that high, wouldn't make economic sense; 2) Great Lakes water is locked down politically.

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