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Conservation groups call on Great Lakes governors to veto water diversion proposal

Only 17 miles from Lake Michigan's shore, Waukesha, Wis. wants to replace its contaminated drinking water with water from the lake.
flickr user Rachel Kramer

More than 40 conservation groups across the Great Lakes are urging the region's eight governors to veto a proposal to divert water from Lake Michigan.

Waukesha, Wisconsin wants to build a pipeline to the Great Lakes, because its groundwater supply is contaminated with radium.

The federal government has ordered the city to find a new source of drinking water by 2018.

Waukesha wants to divert 10.1 million gallons a day from Lake Michigan in the beginning, before working up to 16.7 million gallons a day by 2050. 

In a letter to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Regional Body and Compact Council, 41 conservation groups say Waukesha fails to meet diversion requirements laid out in the Great Lakes Compact:

The City of Waukesha: 1) does not justify why it needs so much more water than it is currently using; 2) does not consider all reasonable alternatives to provide potable water for its residents; and 3) proposes to divert Great Lakes water to communities who do not need it.  Consequently, the [Great Lakes] Compact prohibits the approval of an exception from the ban on diversions.

Waukesha's application is the first to test the requirements of the Great Lakes Compact. All eight of the region's governors must approve the proposal before it can move forward.

“The Great Lakes governors need to take this seriously, fully vet this application and think about what this says for the next diversion application and what path we’re setting. Because we’re writing history right now,” said Marc Smith, with the National Wildlife Federation.

Monday is the final day the public can comment on the proposal.

Here's a complete list of conservation groups that signed the letter:

National Wildlife Federation

Alliance for the Great Lakes

Michigan United Conservation Clubs


Ohio Environmental Council

Prairie Rivers Network (Illinois)

For Love of Water

Friends of the St. Joe River Association

Lake Erie Waterkeeper, Inc.

League of Ohio Sportsmen

Canadian Environmental Law Association

Minnesota Conservation Federation

Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council (Michigan)

Michigan League of Conservation Voters

Freshwater Future

Environmental Advocates of New York

Save the River & Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper

Lake Erie Charter Boat Association

Hoosier Environmental Council

Great Lakes Environmental Law Center

Mullett Lake Area Preservation Society (Michigan)

Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters

Milwaukee Riverkeeper

Rivers Alliance of Wisconsin

Milwaukee Water Commons

Save the Dunes (Indiana)

Michigan Environmental Council

Burt Lake Preservation Association (Michigan)

Save Lake Superior Association (Minnesota)

Ohio Conservation Federation

Izaak Walton League of American, Great Lakes Committee

League of Woman Voters, Lake Michigan Region

Indiana Wildlife Federation

Clean Wisconsin

Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Citizens Campaign for the Environment (New York)

Wisconsin Wildlife Federation

Nature Quebec

Midwest Environmental Advocates

Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter

Save Our Sky Blue Waters (Minnesota)

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