The Canadian government is raising some questions about Waukesha's wish to get drinking water from Lake Michigan.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is reviewing Waukesha's application to be the first city outside the Great Lakes basin to get lake water, under terms of a Great Lakes compact approved five years ago.
During a visit to Milwaukee last week, Canadian ambassador Gary Doer said Canada generally opposes transferring water from one watershed to another, fearing it would hurt water quality, "and today's project may make sense, but 100 of them won't."
Doer says other communities just outside the basin that want great lakes water are watching to see what happens to Waukesha's application. Doer met with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who has raised concerns about Waukesha perhaps supplying water to a few nearby communities in Waukesha County. Barrett says Canada is also worried about diversion during a time of low water levels in two of the great lakes: "With Lake Michigan and Lake Huron levels at historic lows, that the timing is not good, either."
Waukesha water utility general manager Dan Duchniak says Waukesha would return all of the water it takes out of Lake Michigan, after treating the wastewater to make it cleaner than the water going west. Duchniak says his city plans to be a good model for any other cities than want lake water: "That it would be a positive precedent, and lead to positive results as a result of the diversion."
Canada cannot veto Waukesha's water diversion, but the provinces of Ontario and Quebec are supposed to be allowed input on the plan.