Comments Sought on Water Diversion

The City of Waukesha’s application to divert water from Lake Michigan for municipal needs appears to meet key technical requirements, according to a draft technical review by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

In addition to the draft technical review, DNR has completed a draft environmental impact statement and is inviting citizen input on the documents through public hearings on Aug. 17 and 18, as well as an open comment period that runs through Aug. 28. DNR will consider the public comments and summarize public comments for the environmental impact statement, then publish a final environmental impact statement and technical review.

If DNR determines in its final technical review that the city’s application is approvable under the Great Lakes Compact, the department will forward the application to the Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario for consideration.

In its application, the City of Waukesha proposes to withdraw an annual average of 10.1 million gallons of water per day and a daily maximum of 16.7 million gallons per day to serve an estimated population of 97,400 upon final build-out of its proposed water supply service area (approximately the year 2050).

The city asserts that it needs a new drinking water source to address water quantity and quality concerns. The city currently relies primarily on a deep aquifer groundwater supply, but depressed water levels in the deep aquifer have compounded a problem of high concentrations of naturally occurring radium.

The City of Waukesha lies outside the Great Lakes Basin but seeks permission to use water from Lake Michigan under an exception process within the Great Lakes Compact, which took effect in 2008. The process allows communities located outside the Great Lakes basin, but within counties that straddle the Great Lakes watershed, to apply to divert Great Lakes water.

As part of its proposal, the city would return its treated wastewater to Lake Michigan via the Root River and would meet all applicable water quality standards.

Eric Ebersberger, section chief for water use in DNR’s drinking and groundwater bureau, said although it was not required by law, DNR decided to use the environmental impact statement process due to the complexity, public interest and precedent-setting nature of the proposal. DNR also is providing a public comment period exceeding 60 days – twice the length of the 30-day comment period required under the environmental impact statement process – to ensure citizens have time to review the information and provide input.

DNR’s preliminary findings in the draft technical review conclude the city of Waukesha does not have a reasonable water supply alternative within the Mississippi River Basin and that the community cannot meet water supply needs through conservation of existing supplies.

The public hearings will be held: Aug. 17 in Waukesha, presentation at 5:30 pm, public hearing at 6:30 pm at Carroll University Center for Graduate Studies, Auditorium (LL14), 2140 Davidson Road (this is not the main campus location); Aug. 18 in Milwaukee, presentation at 1 pm, public hearing at 2 pm at the Zilber School of Public Health, UW-Milwaukee (Triplex Rooms 109, 119,and 124), 1240 N. 10th St.; and Aug. 18 in Racine, presentation at 5:30 pm, public hearing at 6:30 pm at the Racine Masonic Center, 1012 Main St.

For more information, visit and search “Waukesha diversion application.” More information about the Great Lakes Compact is also available.