BEFORE Lake Michigan, THERE WAS michigami

When the French explorers Marquette and Joliet first reached the shores of this breathtaking natural treasure, they asked the native people they encountered what the lake was called. Their response was “michigami“.

In the original Ojibwe, it means “Great Water.”

Now, more than three centuries later, a groundbreaking new water supply program is poised to translate michigami into great water again…this time for the people of Waukesha, Wisconsin.

The City of Waukesha had a clear objective when it began investigating alternatives to its increasingly depleted water supply more than a decade ago: Identify the single most sustainable and environmentally responsible option.
Lake Michigan won. And thanks to the Great Water Alliance, it will continue to win for generations to come.



isn’t just a drop in the bucket

Actually, it’s much closer to a teaspoon in an Olympic-size swimming pool.

The plain truth is that the Great Water Alliance’s impact on Lake Michigan’s water levels won’t be minimal.

It will be nonexistent.

That’s because we’re required by the terms of our approved application to return approximately 100% of the volume “borrowed” from the lake, each and every year, in perpetuity. And we’re not about to make waves.

let’s be clear

let’s be clear

No community can take water from the Great Lakes without returning it in the form of treated wastewater. That’s not just a suggestion – it’s the law, one of the requirements of the Great Lakes Compact, a Federal law negotiated between the eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces that surround the lakes.

This borrow-and-return policy is in place to keep the Great Lakes sustainable forever. The 8.2 million gallons of water per day Waukesha will be borrowing from Lake Michigan may sound like a lot. But let’s put that into perspective: At certain times of the year, the Great Lakes lost that much water to evaporation every seven seconds.

Nevertheless, as a committed steward of Great Lakes water, Waukesha will faithfully return what we withdraw.

BETTER water. BETTER watershed.

The Great Water Alliance won’t just provide improved drinking water for the City of Waukesha. It will also lead to a more ecologically stable and environmentally sustainable Lake Michigan watershed.

Once implemented, we’ll play a part in helping groundwater remain in the Great Lakes Basin, instead of being diverted to the Mississippi, thereby benefitting area wetlands and wildlife.

approval took six long years

here’s why we feel it was worth the wait…

Waukesha’s application for an exception to the Great Lakes Compact was subjected to incredibly rigorous scientific vetting. As a result, the terms of this approval have set a high bar for future communities in straddling counties wishing to plead a similar case.

As a public service, we’ve made thousands of pages of background documents related to this extensive process available to all who are interested.

After such a long and intense journey, the Great Water Alliance understands that we owe it to our citizens, the environment, and our partner communities to get this right.

We intend to do so.



Myth vs. Fact

The subject of water resource management is often emotionally charged, and the passions it raises can lead to a blurring of the line between myth and fact. We’d like to address some of the common misperceptions that have arisen since Lake Michigan was identified as the only reasonable long term water supply for Waukesha.


Frequently Answered Questions

In case you’re wondering…
here’s the place to start.