Press Release

Waukesha’s Diversion of Lake Michigan Water Highlights the Importance of the Great Lakes Compact

October 9, 2023

Chicago, IL (October 9, 2023) – The City of Waukesha, Wisconsin began supplying Lake Michigan water to its residents today. This is the first diversion of Great Lakes water to a community outside the Great Lakes Basin approved under the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin Resources Compact.

In response, Alliance for the Great Lakes COO and Vice President for Programs Molly Flanagan issued the following statement:

“Today marks the official start of Waukesha, Wisconsin’s water diversion from Lake Michigan, the first approved by the eight Great Lakes states under the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. Due to radium contamination in their local water supply, Waukesha applied for and was granted a diversion of water from Lake Michigan in 2016.      

“In response to criticism from the Alliance for the Great Lakes and advocates across the region, the Compact Council required Waukesha to decrease the amount of its diversion, shrink the service area that would receive Lake Michigan water, and return all diverted water back to Lake Michigan via the Root River. This results in no net loss of water from the lakes, which is required by the Great Lakes Compact.

“Since Waukesha’s initial diversion approval seven years ago, the Alliance for the Great Lakes has been encouraged by the steps all eight Great Lakes states and the premierships of Ontario and Quebec have taken to ensure Waukesha complies with policies meant to protect the Great Lakes that are outlined in this agreement.

“The Great Lakes Compact is a testament to what the region can achieve when it works together. The Great Lakes represent a one-time gift from the glaciers thousands of years ago – less than 1 percent of the waters in the Great Lakes are renewed annually through rainfall and snowmelt. Therefore, the lakes are vulnerable to misuse, and we should never take our water for granted. This water is critical to our lives and livelihoods in our region. The Compact protects the Great Lakes from being depleted to address water issues in other parts of the country and the world.

“The Alliance will be watching closely and expects the Compact Council, Regional Body, and their members to ensure that Waukesha meets all the requirements of its diversion approval. The Great Lakes Compact turns 15 this year, and it is working. These safeguards are critical to preserving the Great Lakes so that they remain vibrant and continue to be shared economic, ecological, and cultural assets for the region.”


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More about the Great Lakes Compact

Read more about the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin Resources Compact.

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