Great Lakes Governors Approve and Set Conditions for Limited Diversion of Lake Michigan Water to Waukesha, Wisconsin

June 21, 2016

CHICAGO – The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council (Compact Council) on Tuesday approved the Great Lakes water diversion application forwarded by the State of Wisconsin and submitted by the City of Waukesha, Wisconsin, subject to conditions required by the Compact Council.

The application sought an exception to the Great Lakes Compact’s ban on the diversion of water from the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin (Basin). The City of Waukesha is a community in a county that straddles the basin divide, one of three potential bases for obtaining an exception to the Compact’s ban on diversions.

The Compact Council, which is composed of the Governors of the eight states bordering the Great Lakes, voted without dissent to approve with conditions the diversion of an annual average day demand of 8.2 million gallons of water from Lake Michigan to the City of Waukesha and required Waukesha to return an equal volume of water to the Lake Michigan watershed. The treated wastewater returned to the Basin will be required to meet Clean Water Act water quality discharge standards.

The Compact Council resolution to approve the diversion incorporated a series of conditions established in the “Declaration of Finding” issued last month by the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Governors’ and Premiers’ Regional Body, which includes the eight Governors and the Premiers of Ontario and Québec.

Waukesha’s original application request was for 10.1 MGD to serve an expanded service area, including several neighboring towns. The Compact Council approval contains a series of conditions including:
· reducing the amount approved to 8.2 million MGD;
· limiting the service area to the city’s current area serviced and town islands;
· continuing implementation and enforcement of Waukesha’s water conservation and efficiency plan with the goal of a 10 percent demand reduction;
· implementing a comprehensive pharmaceutical and personal care products recycling program and encourage reduction of those products into wastewater; and
· submitting public annual reports that document the daily, monthly and annual amounts of water diverted and returned to Lake Michigan.

Waukesha is the only community to have requested a “straddling county” diversion since state and federal law established the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact in 2008. The Compact governs how the states work together to manage and protect the Basin. The law allows for consideration of limited exceptions to the ban on diversions, including for public water supply purposes to communities close to but outside the Basin divide.

The City of Waukesha submitted its original application to the State of Wisconsin in 2010, and Wisconsin forwarded Waukesha’s revised application to the Regional Body and Compact Council on Jan. 7, 2016. On the same day, the Regional Body and Compact Council launched a website ( to provide the public with information about the application and to accept comments. A two-month public comment period on the application began on January 12 and ended on March 14, and during that time over 11,000 comments were received from the public.

On February 17, the members of the Regional Body and Compact Council toured sites related to the diversion application and asked questions of the City of Waukesha in a public forum. On February 18, the members of the Regional Body and Compact Council convened a meeting with Tribes and First Nations, followed by a public hearing at Carroll University in Waukesha. On April 21 and 22 and May 10 and 11, the Regional Body discussed the application in public meetings held at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Two conference call webinars, also open to the public, were conducted May 2 and 18 when the Regional Body concluded its deliberations and approved the Declaration of Finding.

The Compact Council’s approval of the application with conditions allows the State of Wisconsin to proceed with its regulatory decision-making and permitting for the diversion as conditioned by the Compact Council’s action.

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