63%, including majority of respondents in Racine and Milwaukee, are supportive
Oct 25, 2017
By Hannah Weikel
Milwaukee — Though there are still negotiations and a major construction project left standing between Waukesha and water from Lake Michigan, a new regional poll released Tuesday shows public approval for the plan isn’t that big of an issue, with the majority of residents in the five-county Milwaukee metro area supporting the plan.
According to a new poll conducted by Marquette University’s Milwaukee Area Project, 63 percent of residents of a sample living in Ozaukee, Washington, Waukesha, Racine and Milwaukee counties are supportive of Waukesha’s use of Great Lakes water as an alternative to ground water that is contaminated with naturally occurring radium. Twenty-four percent of regional residents still oppose the plan.
Waukesha residents showed the most support with 78 percent in favor and 11 percent opposing the project. The project also saw majority support in the city of Milwaukee with 54 percent and in Racine County at 57 percent.
The findings are heartening for Waukesha officials involved in the project because Racine and Milwaukee have long voiced opposition to the plan to use Great Lakes water, which will come from either Milwaukee or Oak Creek and pipe treated wastewater into the Root River that empties back into the lake through Racine. Racine’s former mayor John Dickert at one point even compared his city to “Waukesha’s toilet.”
It’s hard to pinpoint what led to the strong showing of regional support, said Waukesha County Supervisor and former Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson, because a poll comparable to Marquette University’s hasn’t been done before.
Waukesha’s Water Utility launched a public information campaign called the Great Water Alliance that has held educational sessions across the region, including those municipalities that will be most impacted by the water pipeline like Franklin and New Berlin.
Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly said the region is showing more support for the project as people learn more about it.
“I believe that people have a better understanding of what Waukesha is doing in that we are taking water from Lake Michigan and returning it cleaner than it was,” Reilly said. “That message has gotten through that we aren’t creating a problem, but doing something that’s environmentally sound.”
Waukesha Water Utility Manager Dan Duchniak said there was another group that did a survey looking at opinions in the city of
Waukesha a number of years ago that found support there, but nothing has been conducted regionally.
“I was very surprised at [the new poll’s] results because the water issue is a very scientific and factbased topic,” Duchniak said.
He said the poll data shows the success of the push by Waukesha’s elected officials to focus time and money on education and public outreach efforts.
“I don’t think we can stop and be happy with ourselves here. We have to continue that education process and be transparent to the public,” Duchniak said.
“It is a great opportunity to show that regional cooperation works when this project goes off.”