Perspectives on Waukesha's Water Issues

May 21, 2012

WaukeshaPicTwo interesting articles ran in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week about Waukesha's continuing bid for Lake Michigan water. 

One, an editorial from the Dean of UWM's School of Freshwater Sciences, urges Waukesha to use innovative approaches and technology to solve its water supply problem.  Citing Singapore as an example, it explains that a community can capitalize on water scarcity and transform the problem into a boon for a more progressive, efficient infrastructure.

The second article explains the strict timeline Waukesha is on to put all the pieces in place in order to obtain a Great Lakes water source.

Both of the articles are below.

Waukesha Needs Innovative Thinking

by Dean Garman; Dean of UWM's School of Freshwater Sciences

Given recent editorials and comments on Waukesha's water supply plans, I thought I would provide another perspective.

When it comes to water, Waukesha is not unlike Singapore.

Singapore is a geographically isolated, water-scarce nation that depends heavily on neighboring Malaysia to supply the water needs of its population. Waukesha is dependent in part on over-pumped deep groundwater sources suffering from long-term depletion and deteriorating water quality. Both are faced with water supply sustainability problems perceived as threats to the long-term health of their populations and the economic growth of their communities.

But Singapore and Waukesha are very different when it comes to how they're looking to solve their respective water issues.

Singapore turned its water scarcity into a global strength. It introduced new supplies by innovating. It created reservoirs and water catchment areas to collect and store rain water. It introduced reclaimed wastewater purified using ultra-advanced treatment technologies in addition to conventional treatment processes to fuel its industrial water needs. And it added desalination capabilities to take advantage of its access to seawater.

Because of this multipronged approach, Singapore today is internationally recognized as one of the globe's great water innovators. It has a thriving water industry, conducts some of the world's outstanding water research, and practices some of the best water resource management anywhere. Slowly but surely, Singapore is weaning itself from Malaysian water. When the Milwaukee Water Council points to another region as a model for what we might achieve here in southeast Wisconsin, Singapore is always mentioned.

As Waukesha looks for alternatives to its over-pumped deep groundwater supplies, it seems intent on tying itself to an external source. Piping in supplies of Lake Michigan water is certainly a solution, but it is a 19th century one fraught with economic, political and environmental costs. It's a solution that requires importing water and therefore approval for an exception to the 2008 Great Lakes Compact's prohibition on diversions outside the Great Lakes basin. There is no guarantee that Great Lakes states and provinces outside Wisconsin will go along with this plan, even if the state Department of Natural Resources approves it.

*To read the full editorial visit the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Waukesha's Quest for Lake Michigan Water Lagging

[excerpted from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

by Don Behm

Time appears to have run out on Waukesha's landmark effort to obtain Lake Michigan water by a court-imposed deadline of June 2018 to provide residents with radium-safe drinking water.

June of next year is a "drop-dead" date, Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak says, to have in place all of the pieces the city needs - approval from Wisconsin and seven other Great Lakes states, a water purchase deal from Milwaukee or another city and a host of pipeline construction contracts - in order to have lake water flowing to Waukesha by the summer of 2018. Five years are needed to build the new system, he said.

If all of those hurdles are not cleared and work started by June 2013, Waukesha will have no choice but to select a different and more costly strategy for providing safe drinking water to its residents, Duchniak said, vowing an aggressive push for its lake water plan.

*Read the full article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.