Sunday, March 18, 2007

Lake Michigan Level Still Dropping: Will Waukesha Water Diverters Give A Hoot?

Probably not, even though this Sunday Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story ought to make readers sit up and take notice. And notes.

Advocates of moving water out of Lake Michigan to the City of Waukesha without a solid commitment to returning it often pooh-pooh the impact their 20-24 million gallon daily diversion would have on the lake.

Heck - - Larry Nelson, Waukesha's Mayor, has said the amount of water that Waukesha wants evaporates from the lake in less than a minute.

A million gallons a day here. A billion gallons a week there. Multiplied exponentially by other communities (Chicago, and the fast-growing northern Illinois suburbs included), power plants (WE Energies' Oak Creek complex included), and various other users including water bottlers, and it won't take long to deal the Great Lakes a mortal blow.

Two questions not addressed in the Journal Sentinel article:

Where on these issues is Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources, the key water management agency in the state, which bungled the initial review of New Berlin's Lake Michigan diversion application?

And will the state's legislative study committee get off dead center and recommend the necessary legislation to implement pending amendments to the vital, conservation centered US-Canada Great Lakes Compact?

Without the Compact's upgraded standards and procedures, diversions could happen without guaranteed conservation and water return flow measures, adding to the Great Lakes decline.


XOut said...

Why can’t you just blame the Army Corps of Engineers for allowing the Great Lakes to drain out to the sea. Why do you have to go and accuse the people living in the City of Waukesha of somehow being complicit in the debacle?

It’s a darn good thing that the radium levels aren’t actually dangerous – otherwise other illogical people would turn your own incomplete thoughts against you and blame you for killing children and hard working families.

What is the matter with you?

Your hatred of the counties surrounding Milwaukee is just plain unhealthy.

The people of Waukesha should be accusing the City of Milwaukee of using their potential water source as a toilet – and no, I am not talking about Miller Park, I am talking about the Clean Water Folks at MMSD – the people who designed a system that intentionally purges poo into the lake.

James Rowen said...

It's a good thing that radium can be removed from the water supply.

As for things being purged, look to your own anger and obsessive anonymous postings on other people's sites.

Anonymous said...

Waukesha, as you know but fail to mention, is exploring the feasibility of return flow. What impact is there on lake levels with return flow?

James Rowen said...

Waukesha says it is exploring return flow options. Exploring. And I have mentioned that previously. Let's remember three things:
1. Waukesha has not definitively said it will guarantee return flow.
2. Sources tell me Waukesha wants to do partial return flow - - some down the Fox River to the Mississippi to the Gulf, as it presently does - - and some to the Great Lakes basin. In what percentages? Unknown. And on what schedule? Unknown.
3. Waukesha has not said whether they will return water to the lake - - which would be ideal - - or to the basin, which would be good, but not as good as immediate return to the lake from whence it took water.
4. Waukesha has agreed to consider return flow after being dragooned into the discussion, so let's not yet get too far invested in their actually doing it.

Anonymous said...

It bothers me that Waukesha has the money to build ONE pipe but not TWO pipes. They can afford to draw Lake Michigan water, but not to return it.

The danger, though, is not Waukesha but those thirsty states of Colorado and Arizona. Once Waukesha gets the water spigot turned on, others in the US will want it too.

The City of Chicago in 1960 or so sued, and won in the Supreme Court, to divert Lake Michigan water to reverse the flow of the Chicago River--not the Corps of Engineers.

Letting anyone take Lake Michigan water will be a huge mistake.

James Rowen said...

To the last anonymous poster:
The Chicago diversion dates to about 1900, but was affirmed and limited by the US Supreme Court in 1967.

And as for the piping possibilities: note this comment from today's Weather Channel blog relating to a story about the predicted continuing drought in the Southwest:

"We can build a pipeline all the way across Alaska to transport oil. Surely we could build pipelines across the lower 48 states to transfer water from the areas that have an excess to the areas that need it. I realize cost could be an issue, but I don't think it should be an insurmountable one.
Posted by klb | March 19, 2007"

Anonymous said...

I'm the last anonymous writer...

It would be far cheaper to desalinate ocean water for the parched southwestern states rhan to build any pipeline to transfer Lake Michigan water. GE currently has a tv ad touting its technology for desalination.

All I am saying is that once the water spigot is turned on it is extremely difficult to turn it off. Does anyone want to turn the Great Lakes into another Lake Baikul? So that arid regions can water their golf courses and lawns? This applies to Waukesha as well as Arizona.

Technically, Lakes Michigan and Huron are one and the same because they are at the same exact sea level.

I bear no malice to the good people of Waukesha and the above gentleman is right: MMSD is polluting Lake Michigan with poo. If you can afford a pipeline to Waukesha, build a second to return every drop of Lake Michigan water--minus the poo. The other alternative is to restrict growth.

Mark from Germantown.

James Rowen said...

I think Waukesha and other communities can make much greater progress towards water recycling and other forms of conservation. It's all about managing the water you have, rather than looking for more water in another basin.

As to MMSD; I carry no brief for them. But as we have seen with the recent revelation about unintentional pollution of the Menomonee River from Miller Park, there are multiple sources of pollution hitting Lake Michigan.

Take a walk along Bradford Beach: five large pipe openings routinely pour polluted stormwater right across the sand and into the shallow swimming water.

Those pipes are owned by Milwaukee County. Sandra McClellan, the researcher who discovered the pollution problem at Miller Park, identified the county pipes as a problem two years ago when e. Coli was shutting down Bradford Beach, and the county has yet to move the piles. Or identify how fecal material is entering those pipes in or above or beyond Lake Park.

Finally, while organic pollutants from MMSD's now-infrequent overflows, and from other sources are certainly a matter of concern, and not acceptable, it is wellknown that the non-organic contaminants - - oil, gasoline, brake lining fragments, home cleaning products and others - - that wash off driveways, parking lots and other flat surfaces into the lake pose a greater threat to the public than bacteria in admittedly-gross human and animal waste.

The non-organic and pharmaceutical pollutants have longer lives and may not be as effectively screened and removed in treatment for drinking water.

Let's keep our eye on the ball.

James Rowen said...

In my last posting, there is an unfortunate typo: "piles," should be "pipes."

Anonymous said...

Isn't sending water back, recycling? Unless I'm missing something that gets water back to the lake, you can't ever get the water back in the ground once you take it. I say give lake water with return flow or don't give it to them at all.

If we force them to go west there will be an immediate impact on the surrounding lakes. According to what I've read, they don't have the water in Waukesha and conservation alone isn't the answer. And one other thing, won't that promote more sprawl? There will be building along that pipeline going west, mark my words.

Great Lakes water with return flow seems to be logical.

But then again we are asking the politicians to be logical. I don't think that will ever happen.

This is why nothing ever gets done.

James Rowen said...

There are workable proposals to draw water from the Fox River, recyle it through reuse and return it to the Fox downstream.

There also are proposals to clean and reinject water into the aquifers.

Waukesha has often said it does not want to return Lake Michigan water to the lake, or even to the basin. They have moved somewhat off that hard no-return-flow position, but it still not clear if return flow into the basin - - say, into the Root River, while it gets back to the lake, can be handled by the Root or any other tributary, since the flow during rains could be substantial.

Not simple.

Anonymous said...

Why take Lake Michigan water? Instead build massive resevoirs in the west, and have pumping station at various locations all over the midwestern rivers, during spring floods water could be pumped out to control flooding, and filling resevoirs for irrigation of the millions of arable land, lacking a water supply. Power could be supplied by wind and solar farms built in the west. It would be a win win situation for all, putting thousands of people to work, and increasing our ability to produce food crops, and biodiesel algae farms, feeding the world, and creating renewable energy sources.