When it comes to Lake Michigan water, is the out-of-the Great-Lakes-basin City of Waukesha out of luck and good timing, too?
Waukesha has said, and will no doubt continue to reiterate, that it intends to return all of its sought-after Lake Michigan diversion as treated wastewater (minus an as-yet-to-be established amount for so-called "consumptive use") - - but the news that Lake Michigan has fallen to a modern-era low level underscores a timing problem with this first-ever application by an out-of-basin application under the rules of the Great Lakes Compact of 2008.
You can anticipate this question being asked across the Great Lakes region when the DNR finishes its work on the application, presumably says it's complete and sends it on the other Great Lakes that all get a whack at it and would have to approve the application unanimously.
'Is this the right time to set a precedent and begin allowing new withdrawals?
Asked another way: 'If we say "yes" to Waukesha, will we have a harder time justifying "no" to other requests for pipes into the Great Lakes?'
It also brings to mind a few lines I remembered having been published in 2010 by the Waukesha Freeman after a lengthy interview on the water issue with Mayor Jeff Scrima.
I'd reprinted links to the interview, and this section still sticks with me:
Scrima said he asked Don Gallo, an attorney working with the Waukesha Water Utility, why the city is pushing to receive Lake Michigan water now instead of waiting 30 to 40 years.
“What he said to me blew me away,” Scrima said. “He said, ‘The Great Lakes are not sustainable.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘Well, we are only able to return 92 percent of the water because there is 8 percent of consumptive use.’”
Scrima said Gallo told him that the Great Lakes governors are going to realize that people will use water to drink, water their lawns and for industry, and as a result will cease approving water diversions under the terms of the Great Lake Compact...
However, Gallo said the Great Lakes are sustainable and the water supply is the most reasonable option available to the city. The mayor may have been confused by their discussion, he added.