There’s been a battle raging in Wisconsin for a few years as the city of Waukesha asks for access to Lake Michigan for drinking water. The Great Lakes, surrounded by ten states and provinces are the largest collection of freshwater on Earth and are effectively controlled by the Great Lakes Commission. The GLC mandates that water cannot be transported out of the Great Lakes Basin, so any water used is eventually returned to the lakes. All things considered, this is a sensible policy.
But Waukesha is just outside the Basin and doesn’t have access to freshwater. The groundwater is contaminated with naturally occurring radon. So they want to pipe water 20 miles and will pipe back (cleaned) wastewater. All things considered, this sounds like a fair trade and is in agreement with the spirit of the policy. But a lot of people aren’t happy about this. Some are saying it will increase sprawl (it will) and Waukesha residents have pointed out how expensive the solution is, as it should be.
The real problem here is that the western U.S., currently in a terrible drought, really wants this water. This is both impractical and terribly expensive.
You can hear more about it on Morning Edition:
Wis. Gov. Scott Walker has given preliminary approval for a community just outside the lake basin to siphon off a large amount of drinking water from Lake Michigan.
Image by Rachel Kramer / Flickr.