Great Lakes states' officials are considering another reduction in the service area proposed in Waukesha's water diversion application, which they will vote on next month.

The idea to further pare down the city's proposed service area came during a May 2 webinar meeting of the officials involved in the process. They suggested a further reduction to divert a maximum of 8.4 million gallons per day of Lake Michigan water to Waukesha, down from the city's own revised request for up to 8.76 million gallons per day by mid-century.

Waukesha is under a court-ordered deadline to have radium-compliant water by 2018 and needs a new water source. The city's application for Great Lakes water is the first of its kind, but allowed under a somewhat obscure provision — called a 'straddling county' exception — of the Great Lakes Compact, a federal law that details how the Great Lakes states should work together to manage and protect the Great Lakes Basin.

A state DNR study determined last summer, after years of review, that Waukesha's application complies with the compact.

Mayor Shawn Reilly and Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak did not immediately return messages seeking comment on the proposed revisions. Both have previously said that Lake Michigan water is the city's best option for a sustainable water supply.

Next steps

Great Lakes Regional Body officials were meeting this week, May 10-11, in Chicago to discuss and try to come to a consensus on the application for the final time before they will be asked to vote on it in June.

Those officials include representatives from the eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces.

Under the terms of the compact, the city must get the consent of the Great Lakes governors, or their representatives, before they can tap into Lake Michigan. The Canadian premiers can voice an opinion on the application but cannot vote on it.

After the regional body reviews the application, it will be forwarded to the governors for a vote June 13. Any vote against the application will result in a denial.

Application details

The water diversion application was filed by the city, which is outside the Great Lakes Basin, in 2010 in an attempt to meet its long-term water needs and comply with radium restrictions. Studies have indicated continued use of Waukesha's current deep well water supply is unsustainable.

The city originally requested up to 10.1 million gallons of lake water per day by 2050, but revised that figure to 8.76 million gallons in late April following an initial round of discussions among Great Lakes officials.

The city trimmed its proposed water service area to do so. The new service area map includes the entire city of Waukesha and properties it currently serves in the town of Waukesha — called 'town islands' — and, under a border agreement, a small portion of the city of Pewaukee.

According to the proposal, the water would flow to the city through the Oak Creek Water Utility and 100 percent of it would be returned to Lake Michigan via the Root River, a tributary that flows to the lake, through Franklin, Oak Creek, Caledonia and Racine.

It is unclear if the proposed changes to the water service area could conflict with state law requiring those areas to be consistent with sewer service areas.

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