After seeking approval for years, a Milwaukee suburb is finally on the cusp of drawing millions of gallons of water a day from Lake Michigan to replace its polluted water supply.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced Tuesday that the city of Waukesha will begin diverting up to 8.2 million gallons (about 31 million liters) of lake water per day in September to serve as a public water supply. The city plans to return treated wastewater to the lake via the Root River, resulting in what the DNR calls minimal net water loss.
The city asked regulators in 2010 for permission to extract the water because the groundwater wells are contaminated with radium. The city has obtained a court order to find a solution.
A treaty between the Great Lakes states and the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario generally prohibits the diversion of water outside the Great Lakes watershed, but makes exceptions for communities in provinces that straddle the boundaries of the watershed. Waukesha County meets that exception.
Only the states were given legal authority to consider requests for U.S. water diversions. They approved the City of Waukesha’s request in 2016. The Wisconsin DNR gave final approval for the diversion in 2021.
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