Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Waukesha Concedes It Wants Great Lakes Water For Growth

So says the Journal Sentinel in a story about a new, radium-free well.

The relevant information:

"...city water consumption has shown steady decreases in recent years as the city pursues conservation measures, including summer lawn and garden sprinkling restrictions. The city also has implemented a water rate structure that penalizes residences with higher consumption and is seeking state permission to expand the rate structure.

"The city is seeking to demonstrate a commitment to conservation as it considers pursuing the purchase of Lake Michigan water."
The Great Lakes Compact says diversions from the Great Lakes are to address public interest circumstances that have no other remedy.

Growth is not considered such a need: Waukesha's claim to a diversion just got harder to justify.

[Late Monday morning add: Let me also link to an earlier post wherein I discussed the existing obstacles to Waukesha's diversion application and the Department of Natural Resources signalled willingness to review it without its administrative rules in place. Given Waukesha's admission that it wants diverted Great Lakes water for growth, and can now provide water without a diversion that complies with the federal radium standard, it's apparent that the DNR absolutely needs to get its house in order before green-lighting an application from Waukesha that's getting less defensible by the minute.]


Anonymous said...

I don't think that really says anything about growth. But they'll never admit their intention to expand. It's 100% going to be a "public health" issue. This will be like when firefighters demand: give me this raise or houses will burn down. I think they'll get the water. I don't believe the DNR has the balls to reject their request.

Publius said...

Couldn't one make the argument that growth would expand the tax base and allow the expansion of services in the public interest?

rich said...

Since Waukesha can provide radium-free water, there is no health concern.

Since water consumption is dropping, there's water shortage in Waukesha.

No health concern means no justification for water diversion. No water shortage means Waukesha has no need for anyone else's water.

Waukesha's request to take Great Lakes water just imploded -- unless, that is, the Great Lakes Compact was just a sham all along.

rich said...

Anonymous, the article stated:

"The city contends it needs a greater capacity than the nearly 9 million gallons it produces in order to service expected population growth during the next several decades."

What part about "in order to service expected population growth" isn't clear?

rich said...


Not if that growth is in the form of single-family homes. Property taxes from such traditional development patterns do not cover the cost of expanded services.

It just puts Waukesha taxpayers further in the hole.

So water efficiency measures alone don't cut it. Efficient use of land will be critical in making Waukesha a cost-effective city, keeping taxes down, and maintaining groundwater recharge zones.

Despite the conservation measures described, the idea that Waukesha residents are pouring Lake Michigan water all over their lawns at all pretty much defies the concept/rule of returning all water back to the Great Lakes basin.

PurpleAvenger said...

Anon 11:57: it does say they want to grow:

"The city contends it needs a greater capacity than the nearly 9 million gallons it produces in order to service expected population growth during the next several decades."

Publius: there's no guarantee that growth increases public services. it's just as often used to reduce tax rates.

James Rowen said...

Waukesha intends to continue annexing, and its water utility service territory is expanding. Part of its application for Great Lakes water includes the water utility service extension map, as prepared by SEWRPC, showing the new delivery area.

Waukesha will discover that growth may bring tax base, but tax base that expects services - - roads, schools, lights, sewer, police and fire protectio - - so often, 'growth' is just another word for taxes.

That's why cities benefit the most when growth is focused in areas with infrastructure, such as Waukesha's downtown. Growth at the margins and in annexed space - - sprawl, if you will - - will increase property rates and utility bills.

Dave Reid said...

The good news is this really isn't up to the DNR. It is up to 8 Governors.

Bill McClenahan said...

Contrary to Jim Rowen's assertion that accomodating growth is not a need, it is, in fact, a statutory requirement of the Compact law that he supposedly supported:

(c) A person preparing a plan under par. (a) shall
include all of the following in the plan:
. . .
3. A forecast of the demand for water in the area over
the period covered by the plan.
3m. Identification of the existing population and
population density of the area for which the plan is prepared
and forecasts of the expected population of the area
during the period covered by the plan based on growth
projections for the area and municipally planned population

§ 281.348(c)3m, Wis. Stats.
2007 Act 227, page 47

James Rowen said...

Data collection is one thing, Bill: Using growth as the justification for a diversion is another.

Bill McClenahan said...

So you are arguing that the DNR would approve water supply plans -- a new requirement for 20year plans, created as part of the Compact implementation -- that were insufficient to meet projected needs? The reality is that you advocated to freeze growth if Great Lakes water is used and the Legislature rejected that notion.

Radium is not the only water quality concern, but it is also baffling that the continuing decline in the deep aquifer and its impacts on surface waters do not appear to be of concern in your blog. The switch to the use and recycling of Great Lakes water is clearly the best environmental option and the one that best meets the environmental and economic standards created in the new law.

James Rowen said...


Waukesha could take water from the
Fox River upstream, use it, clean it and return it downstream - - thsereby a) allowing the acquifer to recharge, b) continue to help the Vernon Marsh and c) eliminate the need for a diversion.

But Waukesha declines to pursue that alternative.

Current usage: less than 10 million gallons daily.

Application probably will seek 24 million gallons.

That's a lot of new usage, especially if the conservation programs work long-term, so how is all that projected capacity and use good for the environment?