Wisconsin city approves 40-year deal to buy Lake Michigan water


A Wisconsin city's 15-year quest for Lake Michigan water passed its final political milestone this week, with the Waukesha Common Council's unanimous approval of a 40-year agreement to buy water from Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee connection will cost an estimated $286.2 million, or nearly $40 million less than the option of tapping into Oak Creek's distribution system, Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak said.

The Waukesha council approved the water purchase agreement Tuesday 14-0. The Milwaukee council approved the deal Nov. 28.

Waukesha will be a wholesale customer and pay Milwaukee $1.45 per 1,000 gallons of water when the service begins in early 2023, under terms of the agreement.

Waukesha will pay Milwaukee around $3 million in 2023 to deliver an average of 6 million gallons of lake water a day when service begins that year. Milwaukee will provide Waukesha with up to an average of 8.2 million gallons a day by midcentury.

The door was opened for Waukesha's switch from deep wells to the lake in June 2016. That month, delegates for the governors of the eight Great Lakes states unanimously approved the city's request for a lake supply coupled with returning wastewater to the Root River, a lake tributary.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2019 or 2020 with completion in late 2022.

When lake water flows west to Waukesha in early 2023, the city will stop using its 10 groundwater wells, including seven wells that draw radium-contaminated water from a deep sandstone aquifer.

At that time, the city will become the first U.S. community located entirely outside the Great Lakes drainage basin to receive a diversion of lake water under terms of a 2008 federal law known as the Great Lakes protection compact.