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Water diversion plan could affect future WNY

Posted at 6:56 PM, Jun 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-25 10:51:44-04

This week, governors from eight Great Lake States approved an application from the City of Waukesha, Wisconsin to divert millions-of-gallons of water from Lake Michigan for its drinking supply and return it as treated waste water.  

Waukesha is located outside the Great Lakes Basin.

Since 2008, diversion of Great Lakes water has been banned. The approval is being criticized by environmental groups such as the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper.

It is feared the approval could open the legal door for other areas outside the Great Lakes to do the same thing which could in time reduce lake levels and increase the amount of pollutants returned through waste water.

Executive Director Jill Jedlicka released the following statement:

"The public engagement and advocacy across the Great Lake States certainly contributed to improvements in the water diversion proposal ultimately approved by the Compact Council yesterday (Tuesday).  However, we stand with our Riverkeeper colleagues in Milwaukee and continue to believe the Compact Council should have denied Waukesha's proposal to divert Great Lakes Water until the remaining areas of non-compliance were remedied. These include a lack of a sufficient monitoring plan for return flow through the Root River, no reduction in the maximum 16.7 million gallons per day Waukesha can draw, and failure to require a new analysis for the reduced diversion area."

Over 120 mayors from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative are also against the approval and plan to conference next week to consider challenges for halting the diversion of water.  Those could include a legal action in court or asking the federal government to intervene.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly spent the day looking into the issue and why it could have impact here in WNY.