Thursday, November 13, 2008

Waukesha Water Plan Includes Discharge To Menomonee River Via Underwood Creek

The City of Waukesha revealed a key element in its plan to divert drinking water from Lake Michigan - - discharging its treated wastewater back to the lake by sending it down Underwood Creek in Wauwatosa.

From there, the wastewater will flow into the Menomonee River and into the lake, and while the Great Lakes Compact requires that diverted water be returned, it is not clear whether Waukesha's preference for Lake Michigan water as its long-term supply solution is superior to finding additional underground supplies in Waukesha County's clean, shallow aquifers.

That will be up to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; the other Great Lakes states would have to agree to the Waukesha diversion plan, and one element of the Waukesha proposal is sure to raise objections in the other states: Waukesha's belief that it can discharge a portion of the diverted water after treatment into the Fox River, which flows into the Mississippi River, not towards Lake Michigan, if the return flow might cause flooding.

The Great Lakes Compact is an eight-state regional agreement designed to establish uniform procedures and standards.

It does not allow for a partial return of diverted water. The Compact requires a return of all water, minus a reasonable portion that is consumed.

The Compact says nothing about withholding a portion of return flow to assist with local flooding issues.

Waukesha's return flow declarations have run the gamut.

First it said it was too expensive to accomplish return flow of diverted water.

Then it said it would be bad for the Fox River to take away the current return flow regime; currently, all Waukesha wastewater is sent into the Fox, where downstream communities remove it, clean it, drink it, treat it as wastewater and send it further downstream for more communities to do the same.

Then it said it would achieve a return flow to comply with the Compact.

Now Waukesha is saying its application will comply with the Compact...but it wants to shave off a portion to avoid flooding.

I think Waukesha's motivations are two-fold:

1) It wants to continue to discharge some wastewater to the Fox River to maintain the Vernon Marsh.

2) Waukesha does not want to decommission its existing treatment plant, and won't if it needs the plant to be operational for the occasional discharges during heavy rain events.

We'll see if the DNR greenlights the plan, and that is likely, since the two units of government have been in close communication as the diversion application process has unfolded, post-Compact approval this year.

The bigger question is whether Waukesha can convince the other states that its plan to send any Lake Michigan water out of the Great Lakes watershed towards the Gulf of Mexico is what the Compact intended.

It says nothing about formulas to permit a portion of diverted water to be lost permanently to the Great Lakes to resolve a purely local issue.


Anonymous said...

Waukesha needs to think of another
plan. I strongly feel that all cities need to live with what water they may have.
I do not want one drop of water to go for green laws/swimming pools etc, be it in New Mexico or WI

Yes the Right Wing can be just if not more in defense of the land

Anonymous said...

Just as Waukesha is looking to the East to help it with it's water needs, the City Of Milwaukee is looking West to fill it's budget needs.
To say no would certainly turn people away from any cooperation regarding regional cooperation in the future.
The comment about watering lawns and filling swimming pools is too ridiculous to comment on.
The other comment about using water where you live isn't a valid argument either since everyone in the State Of Wisconsin pays taxes to help maintain the lake and it resources. If the cities within the Lake Michigan water shed want to take on the financial burden themselves then I say Keep Your Water.
As for defense of the land.....How much food does the City of Milwaukee produce with it's land? Where does the vast majority of it's rainfall go and how much state money does the city take from the state to reclaim waste land in the industrial valley?
Right or Left you have to look at the whole picture.

Anonymous said...

And exactly what will Wauwatosa have to say about any of this? We're currently at the tail end of a massive amount of work to prevent flooding due to heavy rain, that was accomplished through an MMSD program. Several homes in a flood plain were taken via eminent domain, and massive amounts of sewer work was done, as well as work on both the Menomonee River channels, and currently the Underwood Creek channels (to remove concrete banks and slow the flow).

We also destroyed beautiful wooded areas to create two "lakes" for flood relief near the County grounds. Despite all this, we still had flooding problems during the heavy rainfalls last spring.

Granted, not all the sewer work was accopmlished, but I can't help but think that adding more water to the system from a return Waukesha flow won't help things.

Flooding is a definite concern that needs to be addressed.

Anonymous said...

Like every water utility, Waukesha treats more wastewater than it supplies to its customers, because additional water infiltrates the system between the users and the wastewater treatment facility (through manholes, etc.). That means there would be more water available for return than would have been withdrawn from the lake, allowing water to be withheld during heave rain events to prevent any fear of adding to potential flooding. The amounts required by the Compact for return flow would still be met.

The real innovation in the proposal is the use of wastewater as a resource to provide benefits in the tributary as it is recycled back to the lake, instead of simply piping it somewhere to dispose of it. It will provide a model for all utilities to consider.

The use of lake water is a much better option because the water can be recycled back to the source. Groundwater cannot be. Ending the use of the depleted aquifer will allow it to recover, benefitting surface waters, as well.

At the same time, Waukesha has the most comprehensive water conservation program in the Midwest, including conservation rates, rebate programs and a ban on daytime lawn sprinkling.

Waukesha's proposal provides the greatest environmental benefits to the region of any of the options studied by the utility, by SEWRPC and by other experts.

Anonymous said...

I do not believe for a moment that that water grab that Waukesha is trying will not go to homeowner who will use this water for lawns and pools along with other uses.
I could not care less if The Son of God came from DC to insure the water was well used.
Waukesha needs to live with what water you have.
Waukesha you by misuse depleted your aquifer live with it do not think that Lake Michigan exist to fix it. Try a good land use plan vs building every where.
As mush as I disagree with Mr. Rowan he is 100% right on this issue.
Waukesha you must want to live in the courts, for this is where your water grab will get you.
Green groups in Racine have all ready started fund raising for the legal effort to stop this.