Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

Let’s beat the rush and just build a giant straw now


Yet another article today reminding us that the water underneath us will not last forever.

The study by the U.S. Geological Survey, released earlier this week, is a pilot for the next federal Water Census, a comprehensive evaluation of water resources in the country not completed since 1978. The study, in particular, focused on the southern half of the Lake Michigan basin, where Milwaukee and Chicago form a single region, each metro area’s water use influencing the others. Researchers emphasize the interconnectedness of aquifers in the region – models even predict that wells in the Milwaukee area influence underground water reserves as far away as western Michigan.

Some of the results serve as a warning to the Milwaukee area, where, in some areas, aquifers, or reserves of water that lie deep underground, have fallen several hundred feet since the time researchers have labeled as “pre-development” (1864). Local fresh water shortages become more possible as the levels fall further: Researchers say they could fall an additional hundred feet in the area by 2040 if current pumping continues.

“The cost of this deep draw-down is not directly seen in loss of habitat or a lake,” says Daniel Feinstein, a USGS hydrogeologist and adjunct professor at UW-Milwaukee. “It becomes more expensive to pump, and there’s a threat the water will become contaminated or more salty.”

Salty well water is already a concern in the western suburbs of Chicago, where aquifers have fallen by as much as 1,000 feet.

The mayor of Waukesha, Jeff Scrima, infamously said that as long as there is rain in Waukesha, Waukesha will have water. That someone could be so ignorant of how the aquifer is recharged and still be elected mayor is just amazing to me. This article should serve as yet another reminder, as if we needed one, that the water under our feet will not last forever, even with more conservation by Waukesha.

The current system is not sustainable. Tapping all of the surface water features available to us is not sustainable, even if it was possible. It certainly will not be possible given the opposition of the communities surrounding Waukesha.

Fortunately, the Great Lakes Compact has the means built-in, specifically with Waukesha in mind, to divert Lake Michigan water for our long-term water solution. We can do this in a responsible and environmentally friendly manner if we can just overcome the ignorance of some in Waukesha that believe we’ll always be able to just strike a stone and have water pour out, and if we can overcome the bigotry of some in Milwaukee and elsewhere who see Waukesha as the evil empire.

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