Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Published August 31, 2017
By Jim Riccioli, Now News Group

WAUKESHA — When all is said and done, Waukesha will have water flowing to and from Lake Michigan to satisfy its long-term water needs.

But what will happen between now and then?

That’s the topic of a meeting of the Great Water Alliance set for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6, at the Waukesha Rotary Building, 1150 Baxter St., Waukesha.

BUILDING AN ALLIANCE

The Great Water Alliance is the brand name given to an initiative by the city to educate and unite the public, including the various communities involved in the water diversion project, concerning Waukesha’s quest to use lake water.

In a postcard sent out in late August, the Great Water Alliance said it was holding the Sept. 6 open house to allow everyone to “immerse yourself in the facts about Waukesha’s plan to borrow water from Lake Michigan, the pipeline that will carry treated water to the Root River, and the program’s implementation and what it means to you.”

 “It’s about opening up lines of communication for our project – reaching out to the public and trying to inform them what’s happening with the Great Water Alliance and our quest for Great Lakes water,” Dan Duchniak, Waukesha Water Utility general manager, said this week.

Duchniak anticipates that people attending the open house will have varied concerns, including concerns about water quality, environmental impacts and project costs.

“There will be stations all around the room, and there will be different people there to answer questions the public may have,” he said.

The open house will address issues that have been previously made public for those unaware of what has transpired up until this point.

 SLOW-FLOW TIMELINE

The water diversion project stems from a decades-long effort by the city to comply with a federal standard to reduce or eliminate radium in Waukesha’s water supply.

Over the years, the city began to focus on sources other than groundwater due to concerns about how sustainable those aquifers would be in providing ample and safe drinking water locally.

Eventually, a study was initiated to compare groundwater with the option of drawing water from Lake Michigan. The exhaustive study – which involved state and local officials – concluded that the city’s best approach was borrow lake water.

Before that concept could move forward, the city had to obtain unanimous approval from the Great Lakes states under a restrictive compact. The agreement allows lake water to be diverted by communities that exist within counties that at least straddle the historic lake watershed basin. Waukesha qualified under that exception.

Ultimately, the city gained the required approval in June 2016, a decision that was reaffirmed earlier this year in response to appeals by those opposed to the plan. In March, opposition from several groups, includes one consisting lake states mayors, ebbed as the proposal’s legal standing strengthened.