Tuesday, eight of the Great Lakes states unanimously approved a compact agreement that will stop the city of Waukesha, Wisconsin from drawing a half billion gallons of water per year from the Lake Michigan basin, and pump it into the Mississippi River basin.
Waukesha’s aquifer is contaminated with radium, and for years the city has been pumping water from a well that draws from Lake Michigan’s basin. The water was used for their municipal water supply, and was then treating and diverting the water to the Mississippi River basin.
At a Chicago meeting, Tuesday, the states’ approval means Waukesha can withdraw water directly from Lake Michigan, but will now have to return all of it, with strict environmental standards to the Great Lakes.
“I strongly support policies that protect and conserve our greatest natural resources, and this agreement will strengthen the Great Lakes and set high standards for the future,” Gov. Rick Snyder said. “There are a lot of emotions and politics surrounding this issue but voting yes – in cooperation with our Great Lakes neighbors – is the best way to conserve one of our greatest natural resources. Mandating strict conditions for withdrawing and returning the water sets a strong precedent for protecting the Great Lakes.”
The agreement will require the city to follow a strict set of conditions for withdrawal proposed by Snyder, including a pharmaceuticals and personal care products recycling program is implemented for the returned water, protecting wetland habitats and conducting environmental monitoring with mandatory reporting.
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council also included enforcement guidelines around the requirement that Waukesha must return 100-percent of the water it withdraws. These include Waukesha has to document the daily, monthly and annual amounts of water withdrawn and returned, all the other Great lake States are allowed to conduct audits of the records and the agreement can be withdrawn by the other states at any point if conditions of the agreement are violated.
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