Federal officials today declared what anyone who's stepped outside in Southern Wisconsin has know for weeks: we're in the midst of a severe drought that's been building for a while.
Attention has turned to conservation - - watering restrictions and the like - - which, like all conservation goals and changes - - need good information and public buy-in to succeed.
Predictive science also indicates that Wisconsin's already changing climate includes rising temperatures, with rainfall likely concentrated in heavy storms rather than the routine pattern we'd come to expect.
More emphasis on conservation is a must.
With that in mind, local governments, state officials and the general public should re-focus the debate over the City of Waukesha's application for a Lake Michigan water diversion - - an application still under review by the DNR, but which has yet to identify a potential supplier of the water Waukesha wants.
That is, in part, because the City of Milwaukee does not want to supply water to four smaller communities Waukesha intends to serve in its proposed water service area supply plan. (More about that issue, below).
The added communities have not directly requested Lake Michigan water from Milwaukee - - one, the Town of Waukesha, has not agreed to join the City of Waukesha's application, adding a further complication - - and while the City of Waukesha has implemented a water conservation plan, the smaller communities, to the best of my knowledge, do not have similar conservation plans or demonstrable goals and achievement.
So here are two suggestions:
First: Read the governing Great Lakes Compact documents. They are principally water management plans replete with requirements, standards and goals elevating conservation of a shared water resource - - documents approved in 2008 by the Wisconsin legislature, the other seven Great Lakes states, the US Congress, the US President, and Canadian officials, with whom advisory authority rests.
Here is a link and detail with two more links in pdf format from the Council of Great Lakes Governors, to which Wisconsin belongs. Diversion requirements begin on p. 7 of the Agreement (item 1 below):
The agreements include the following:
1. The Great Lakes—St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement (the Agreement), a good-faith agreement among the Great Lakes States, Ontario and Québec; that will be implemented in Ontario and Québec through Provincial laws, and in the States, throughSecond: Read at the DNR's web page about Compact implementing rules - - some unfinished - - that Wisconsin law in 2008 directed the DNR to write by 2011:
2. The Great Lakes—St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (the Compact), an agreement among the Great Lakes States that was passed into law through an interstate compact. The Compact came into force on December 8, 2008.
Areas not yet completed:
DNR 854 Water Supply Service Area Plans
CURRENT STATUS - Incorporating Public Comment into Final Rule
Public water systems that serve a population of 10,000 or more and withdraw water are required to develop a water supply service area plan by 2025. In some situations a plan will be required sooner if the system is in the Great Lakes basin and interested in increasing its withdrawal, or if the system is seeking a diversion of Great Lakes water. This rule will specify the procedures and requirements for these plans. Water Supply Service Area Planning Factsheet
The DNR issued a public notice of hearings on the proposed rules, and held hearings Dec. 14th & 15th, 2010.
The proposed rule and supporting documents can be found on the State of Wisconsin Administrative Rules Water Supply Service Area Plans webpage.
Contact Kay McConnell with questions regarding this rule.
Additional Administrative RulesCURRENT STATUS - Drafting
- Water Use Public Participation – This rule will establish the requirements for public participation for proposals for diversions of water.out of the Great Lakes basin.
- Water Loss and Consumptive Use – This rule will establish the methods for determining the amount of water loss from different consumptive uses.
These rule drafts are expected to be available for public comment in winter 2012. Check back at this webpage or sign up for GovDelivery for notification regarding these rules.
Contact Steve Elmore with questions on these rules.Both the Doyle and Walker administrations dropped this ball.
This is a bad time to be flying blind when water use, precedent-setting diversion requests and conservation needs are all on the table.