Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Can Waukesha Legally Flush Some Lake Michigan Water Away From The Lake?

Sean Ryan of The Daily Reporter writes that Waukesha believes it can guarantee to Wauwatosa - - the planned discharge point for Waukesha wastewater if Waukesha receives Lake Michigan water - - that the discharge will not foul Underwood Creek or lead to flooding. - - issues that Wauwatosa and downstream neighborhoods in Milwaukee have faced.

If not, Wauwatosa could deny Waukesha discharge permission and Waukesha would have to come up with a far more expensive discharge plan, or drop the Lake Michigan water supply option in favor of costly work with new and existing wells..

But the general manager of the Waukesha Water Utility tells Wauwatosa in the story that one way it will prevent flooding will be discharging the wastewater on certain flood-prone days to the Fox River instead of into Underwood Creek.

But that may put Waukesha at odds with a basic tenet of the Great Lakes Compact, the document that governs diversions and return flow arrangements: that all water taken from the basin, minus a fair allowance for water consumed, must be returned to the source water.

The Fox River, into which Waukesha now discharges treated wastewater from its wells, flows away from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River system and eventually to the Gulf of Mexico.

Waukesha has stated it will comply with the Compact return flow requirement because any water lost will be made up by groundwater that leaks into underground piping and thus will find its way into the discharge outflow, hence to the lake.

Will the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and regulators in the other seven Great Lakes states buy that scheme?

All must approve the plan.

The discharge plan and its attendant costs have always been a potential stumbling block for Waukesha because of its distance from Lake Michigan, and the Compact, takes note of the potential problem by mandating the return.

And also mandating water conservation, and use of diversions only as last resorts.

Time will tell.

I have my doubts.

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