Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Too Much Rain Overnight Shows Risk Of Potential Waukesha Diversion Discharge Routing

News of Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District overflows after the first heavy rains of the year, along with this bit from today's Journal Sentinel newsblog - - "The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for the Root River in Franklin. Minor flooding is forecast before the river is expected to fall back below flood stage tomorrow afternoon" - - indicate that both the natural and artificial water systems in the region can only effectively hold so much precipitation.

The City of Waukesha continues to study whether the Root River and/or the Menomonee River are appropriate for possible discharges of wastewater if an approved Lake Michigan diversion by Waukesha comes with a return-flow requirement.

Which it surely will.

So it makes sense to a) make sure that the diversion is absolutely necessary, and b) ensure that the City of Waukesha or any other community looking to solve a water supply problem with a Lake Michigan diversion does not simply, in obtaining it, transfer its problems and their consequences to a neighboring watershed, and adjacent communities.

The City of Waukesha currently discharges its wastewater to the Fox River, in the Mississippi River watershed.

The City of Milwaukee, where MMSD's sometimes over-capacity storage and treatment facilities are located, is in the Lake Michigan basin; The Menomonee River empties into Lake Michigan in the City of Milwaukee, while the Root empties into Lake Michigan in Racine.

So Waukesha's potential routing of eight or so million gallons of wastewater daily towards Lake Michigan (that's the City of Waukesha's daily average water usage: its preliminary diversion paperwork has sought permission to divert up to 24 million gallons of water daily) may be less a solution to its supply problem and more a shift in the problem's definition (resulting wastewater) and location (Milwaukee, Racine, and riverfront neighborhoods along the way).

Not to mention shifting some of the water supply and treatment infrastructure costs to the Lake Michigan basin communities, and to MMSD, which is already adding tens of millions of dollars in storage capacity and other equipment.

And all these costs which may rise if climate change produces heavier rains and so-called 100-year storms occur, say, every three-to-five years.

More water, heading somewhere: It underscores a fundamental commandment of regional water resources' management:

Do Not Dump Your Troubles Into The Next Basin Or Downstream, since we're all downstream from somewhere.

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