Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

Lake Michigan remains best water source


Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Jul 28, 2011; Section:Opinion; Page Number:8A

Lake Michigan remains best water source

Nothing else as safe, reliable and cost-effective


Recently, the Lovely Doreen from Waukesha and I purchased a rain barrel for a corner of our house. I won’t lie to you and say I did it out of any special love for the environment. I did it because the one corner of our house has drainage problems.

There are advantages to owning a rain barrel. I have a convenient source of water for watering the flowers. I don’t have to worry about which way that particular downspout is pointing.

I’ll even have my own drinking water in case we do not get approval for Lake Michigan water.

This week, the state’s Department of Natural Resources is holding a series of informational meetings about Waukesha’s application for Great Lakes water. Tonight will be the third and final meeting at the DNR service center in Sturtevant.

I’d like to tell you that there is some magic breakthrough that is going to keep water rates from going higher in Waukesha. I’d like to tell you that Mayor Jeff Scrima is right that as long as rain falls from the sky there will be plenty of water for the city of Waukesha.

I’d also like to tell you that Santa Claus is delivering rain barrels to everyone in Waukesha this Christmas.

Unfortunately, there is no simple solution to Waukesha’s water problems. We may disagree with the Environmental Protection Agency about the effects of the radium in our drinking water, but we have already lost the argument.

In addition to the radium issue, the deeper we go into the aquifer the more contaminants have to be removed. Eventually that becomes cost-prohibitive.

Making matters worse, the water that seeps into the ground beneath our feet doesn’t even go all the way to the aquifer. The aquifer we rely upon is “recharged” out in Jefferson County.

Waukesha can’t rely on digging more shallow wells, either. As the fight with the Town of Waukesha over the Lathers property has shown us, digging more shallow wells will only lead to more legal battles with our city’s neighbors.

The surrounding communities would be right to be concerned. Tapping the shallow aquifers means less water for their wells and some of the lakes and streams nearby.

A recent state Supreme Court decision also reaffirmed the power of the DNR to regulate the construction of wells based on their impact to surrounding communities. That puts the power of the state of Wisconsin against us if we try to dig more shallow wells.

So thorough was Waukesha’s investigation of other water source alternatives that even Robert Latta’s idea of digging water retention trenches in every yard was explored and discarded before Latta proposed it.

Even if every homeowner were willing to turn his front yard into a replica of the trenches from World War I, at best we would be contributing to enhancing the recharge of the shallow aquifer. It would not be enough water, and the plan certainly would not be reliable or very practical.

As for Milwaukee’s resolution No. 080457 that school board member Steve Edlund and other conspiracy theory paranoids are panicking about, I actually read it – unlike many of them. It’s a series of reporting requirements about Waukesha’s socioeconomic mix, whether our development would impact Milwaukee’s, Waukesha’s housing plan and mix, and whether Waukesha’s transportation plan works with Milwaukee’s.

I promise Steve Edlund that nobody is going to force him to fill out the paperwork, any more than Milwaukee is going to dictate our housing and transportation policy.

In case Edlund hasn’t noticed, regional transit authorities are dead. High-speed rail is dead. Light rail is dead. And our bus lines already have free transfers between them.

Labor groups and business groups are both endorsing Waukesha’s water application. The only ones left are the die-hard opponents of any cooperation between Waukesha and Milwaukee (in both cities), and complete fantasists.

Yes, water rates will go up. But they won’t go up nearly as bad as if Mayor Jeff Scrima had his way, or any other opponents of Waukesha’s application.

The good news is that none of you will be asking to borrow a cup of water from my new rain barrel.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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