What is known today as the Great Water Alliance, started its historic journey more than a decade ago. In 2016, it received unanimous approval from the Great Lakes states who agreed that switching to Lake Michigan water was the only reasonable option to provide the 70,000 residents of Waukesha with a sustainable source of safe drinking water. Now, in 2020, we prepare to begin construction of one of the largest construction projects in Wisconsin, moving and returning eight million gallons of water a day along 36 miles of pipeline from Milwaukee to Waukesha.
Many things had to happen to make this project a reality for Waukesha. For the last four years, the Great Water Alliance has been working with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation – as well as municipal leaders from Milwaukee, New Berlin, West Allis, Muskego, Greenfield, Franklin, Racine, and Waukesha – to name only a few partners.
The Great Water Alliance has been outlining plans and gaining necessary permissions to build a water supply pipeline from Milwaukee to Waukesha, along with a second pipeline to return the water to Lake Michigan. Route studies, land surveys, soil studies, water chemistry analyses, pipe material comparisons, and other assessments have been just part of the extensive technical work, along with engagement with the communities, residents and businesses along the pipeline routes.
Then there are the deadlines the Great Water Alliance must meet to provide water that fully complies with drinking water standards under a court order agreed to by Waukesha and the Department of Justice.
Along the way, the Great Water Alliance has relied on partners who are experts in wetlands, waterways, natural resources, and local wildlife species. Partners who assess neighborhoods to minimize impacts associated with construction of pipelines and the booster pumping station essential to the project.
But the most important partners the Great Water Alliance has are the neighbors – the people and businesses who could be affected by construction or who must navigate detours as new pipelines are built. With their patience, flexibility and cooperation, they are key players in regional solutions to ensure water sustainability for Waukesha, relieve an already over-tapped aquifer, and benefit area streams, lakes and wetlands.
Together, these partners help address the reality that everyone deserves fresh, sustainable water. And when this program is complete, and history is made, these partners will know that they were instrumental in providing 70,000 of their neighbors with healthy, sustainable water.