Friday, August 24, 2007

Region's Flooding Raise This Question: Which Tributary Could Accommodate Waukesha's Potential Discharge Of Treated Lake Michigan Water?

The City of Waukesha continues to work with the Department of Natural Resources in the city's search for a solution to one major stumbling block to winning a diversion from Lake Michigan: returning water to the lake.

Without this so-called return flow, a diversion would fail politically under the requirements and intent of federal law and the Great Lakes Compact, drafted, pending or adopted.

That's because basic principles of sustainability and water conservation demand that water taken from a source like Lake Michigan be returned, minus a reasonable amount consumed.

Waukesha is looking at the Root River and other tributaries as the potential means to convey diverted water back to Lake Michigan - - but as this summer's rains have shown, some tributaries cannot handle heavy and unpredictable natural precipitation without flooding, so could they also handle several million gallons of water daily sent down river by Waukesha?

Waukesha has indicated that it would keep its Fox River treatment facilities open, perhaps using both the old and new means of disposal to handle treatment flow during major rains.

But that would, at times, be a lot to coordinate and predict, and could leave the Lake Michigan return with deficits.

It's a dilemma, for sure, but one that regulators in the other Great Lakes states will study closely, and one that underscores why conservation, water reuse and recycling may be better courses of action both in Waukesha and for the Great Lakes.

It's not a solution to the needs and burdens of one watershed to transfer them to another.

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