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Key Facts from the Great Lakes Compact Council's Approval of Waukesha's Application

The eight Great Lakes governors (the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Resources Compact Council) unanimously approved Waukesha’s proposal to use and return Lake Michigan water under the Great Lakes Compact. The key findings of the approval include the following (emphasis added):

  • "Approximately 100% of the volume withdrawn from the Basin will be returned via flow through the Root River, a tributary of the Basin. This effectively results in no net loss of water volume to the Basin."
  • "The deep aquifer groundwater supply is hydrologically connected to waters of the Basin. Continued use of that aquifer draws groundwater away from the Basin" without being returned.
  • "Approving a diversion of Great Lakes water with return flow will result in a net increase of water in the Lake Michigan watershed."
  • "None of the evaluated alternatives were found to be reliable sources for a long-term, dependable, and sustainable public water supply and, therefore, the Applicant is without a reasonable water supply alternative" to Lake Michigan water.
  • "The Applicant’s deep aquifer wells draw from an aquifer that is part of a regional aquifer system where withdrawals have exceeded the natural recharge rate.
  • "The Applicant’s wells in the deep aquifer are in a confined aquifer which restricts recharge and contributes to groundwater decline."
  • "The Applicant’s deep aquifer wells also have total combined radium ... concentrations that are above the Safe Drinking Water Act standard."
  • Approval will "eliminate the introduction of radium into the environment."
  • "The groundwater depletion, along with the radium concentration issue, demonstrates that the deep aquifer is not a sustainable or safe source of water for the people served by the Applicant."
  • "The proposed Exception cannot be reasonably avoided through the efficient use and conservation of existing water supplies and the Exception will be implemented to incorporate environmentally sound and economically feasible water conservation measures to minimize water withdrawals."
  • "The return flow will benefit a Basin tributary, the Root River ... Increased flow will result in an improvement of the fishery and benefits to the Basin salmonid egg collection facility located downstream on the Root River."
  • Waukesha’s "high quality" wastewater treatment includes "removal of chemical phosphorus, suspended solids and associated contaminants, as well as organic materials; tertiary filtration; and, ultraviolet light disinfection. The proposed phosphorus permit limits are well below the water quality standard for the Root River and are on an order of magnitude lower than many existing dischargers to the Basin."
  • Waukesha must monitor the Root River "in order to adapt future return flow to minimize potential adverse impacts or maximize potential benefits."
  • "The Applicant must implement a comprehensive pharmaceutical and personal care products recycling program and continually use the best available methods to encourage the further reduction of such products into the wastewater as recommended by the Originating Party."
  • "The findings in this Final Decision are unique ... and do not necessarily apply to any other applicant or application. The unique circumstances ... include:"
    • The court order for Waukesha to comply with radium standards;
    • The elimination of a source of radium into the environment by ending use of Waukesha groundwater;
    • The current us of confined aquifer that has limited groundwater recharge;
    • The groundwater interconnection and the current loss of water from the Lake Michigan watershed;
    • The unavoidable significant environmental impacts of alternatives to Lake Michigan surface water;
    • Waukesha’s return of approximately 100% of Lake Michigan water;
    • The protection against sewage overflows; and
    • The quality of Waukesha’s wastewater treatment.
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