Great Lakes states uphold Waukesha water diversion

Apr 20, 2017

In a conference call Thursday afternoon, the Great Lakes Compact Council upheld its decision allowing Waukesha, ​Wisc., to draw water from Lake Michigan.

Representatives for all eight Great Lakes states voted to deny a challenge brought by local officials across the region.

"Today was a tremendous day for the citizens of Waukesha and the future of our city," Mayor Shawn W. Reilly said in a prepared statement. He added, "We hope those who filed this appeal will end their opposition and join us in creating a world-class water program that will not only serve our community well into the next century, but also be the standard for sustainability and protecting our Great Lakes ... .

Waukesha, a suburb of Milwaukee, first applied for Lake Michigan water six years ago because city wells are laced with radium.


Still, the diversion was controversial because Waukesha lies outside the Great Lakes Basin, and regional officials have jealously guarded their water resources. Opponents feared setting a precedent that would allow more distant cities to draw on the Great Lakes.

On Thursday, the state representatives voted no on the following question: “Has [The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative] met its burden of proving that the final decision based on erroneous findings of fact, conclusions of law, or an abuse of discretion that warrants opening or modifying the Compact Council final decision of June 21, 2016 in the matter of the application by the city of Waukesha, Wisconsin for a diversion of Great Lakes water from Lake Michigan and an exception to allow the diversion?”

The Initiative, a group representing over 100 American and Canadian mayors in the Great Lakes region, appealed the Compact Council’s decision in March.

Thursday’s conference call served as a continuation of a hearing held in Chicago last month.