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Gov. Snyder: Wisconsin will halt Great Lakes diversion, adopt withdrawal with guaranteed return system under agreement approved today

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

LANSING, Mich. - The city of Waukesha, Wisc. will no longer draw half a billion gallons of water per year from the Lake Michigan Basin and pump it into the Mississippi River Basin, under a new compact agreement approved unanimously today by all eight Great Lakes states, including Gov. Snyder’s Michigan vote.

Waukesha’s current aquifer is contaminated with radium, and for years the city has been pumping water from a deep well that draws from the Lake Michigan Basin, using it for their municipal water supply. The city then treats and diverts the water to the Mississippi River Basin. Today’s approval at a Chicago meeting means Waukesha can withdraw water directly from Lake Michigan, but now has to return all of it, with strict environmental standards, back to the Great Lakes.

“I strongly support policies that protect and conserve our greatest natural resources, and this agreement will strengthen the Great Lakes and set high standards for the future,” Snyder said. “There are a lot of emotions and politics surrounding this issue but voting yes – in cooperation with our Great Lakes neighbors – is the best way to conserve one of our greatest natural resources. Mandating strict conditions for withdrawing and returning the water sets a strong precedent for protecting the Great Lakes.”

Waukesha is currently withdrawing 1.6 million gallons of Great Lakes water per day from the basin and diverting it to the Mississippi River Basin. Today’s agreement will require the city to adhere to a set of new, strict conditions for withdrawal proposed by Gov. Snyder, including:

  • Ensuring approximately 100 percent of the water borrowed is restored to Lake Michigan
  • Implementing a pharmaceuticals and personal care products recycling program for the returned water
  • Protecting wetland habitats, and
  • Conducting environmental monitoring with mandatory reporting.

Language approved today by the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council also includes strict enforcement language around the requirement that Waukesha must return 100 percent of the water it withdraws from Lake Michigan back to the lake. The enforcement language requires that:

  • Waukesha document the daily, monthly and annual amounts of water withdrawn and returned
  • All the other Great Lakes states be allowed to conduct audits to inspect the records, and
  • The agreement can be withdrawn by the other states at any point if conditions of the agreement are violated.

Waukesha is one of a limited number of communities eligible to apply for a withdrawal with guaranteed return system under the compact. Any community completely outside of the Great Lakes Basin, such as those in Arizona or California, are prohibited from withdrawals.

Public input was taken on this topic by the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes through informational meetings and online forums, the comments from which were shared with the entire Council. For more information on the six-month decision making process, visit

For a quick explanation on the Waukesha vote, watch this short video.