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Mayors appeal Waukesha water diversion

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The groundwater in Waukesha, Wisc. is contaminated, so it wants to pump water from Lake Michigan.

A group of cities near the Great Lakes is appealing a decision to let Waukesha, Wisconsin draw water directly from Lake Michigan. 

Waukesha asked to divert water from Lake Michigan because its own water source is contaminated. 

Great Lakes governors approved the diversion, but many Great Lakes mayors disagree. 

A group of 120 of them – members of The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative – is appealing. 

The Initiative is dominated by mayors of Canadian cities, but includes some in Michigan, including Grand Rapids, Traverse City, and a city dealing with its own water contamination issue – Flint.

The Initiative says the approval of the diversion sets a bad precedent.

Governor Rick Snyder has previously said he approved the diversion request in part because Waukesha is already, by default, diverting some water from Lake Michigan, since part of its aquifer naturally draws some water from the lake's watershed. 

But the city discharges its water into the Mississippi River, so it is not being returned to Lake Michigan.

Under the terms of the Great Lakes Compact, Waukesha will have to return any water it uses from Lake Michigan back to the lake, after treating it.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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