A request from Waukesha to take water from the Great Lakes has a broad group of lawmakers from across the region asking for a careful review of the plan.
State Representative Cory Mason is one of more than 70 officials from Great Lakes states who recently sent a letter to the Department of Natural Resources. They are asking the agency to address concerns about the plan, which include Waukesha’s request to divert up to 16 million gallons of water a day so it can provide water to other communities, releasing wastewater to the Root River, and what they argue is a lack of evidence that Waukesha has no other alternatives to meet its water needs.
Mason, a Racine Democrat, worries the plan does not meet the high standards set by the Great Lakes Compact. He notes Waukesha’s request is the first of its kind, and believes relaxing the rules too much could set a dangerous precedent when dealing with future requests. “It’s about making sure that those strong standards stay in place,” he says.
Waukesha is located in southeastern Wisconsin, just over a mile outside of the Great Lakes basin. City leaders argue they need a new source of water because of a massive drawdown of their existing supply. In a recent editorial, Mayor Shawn Reilly also voiced concerns about naturally occurring contaminants in their water supply and the damage its continued use could have on the environment. He also noted that an environmental analysis by the state Department of Natural Resources concluded that the request meets the requirements of the Compact.
Under the Compact, the governors of all Great Lakes states and Canadian officials would have to approve the diversion of water. Mason believes a full review of the plan is needed before that request is made. “It would behoove Waukesha and the Department of Natural Resources to make sure they get this right,” he argues.