Posts tagged with "Water":
Waukesha, Wisconsin, has a water problem. The deep wells of the state’s fourth largest city are tainted with radium, a naturally occurring radioactive element. With a 2018 deadline to comply with federal drinking water standards, the city is scrambling to find a sustainable, long-term source of fresh water. A recent decision will allow the city to draw its drinking water from Lake Michigan, but tapping into the Great Lakes system is complicated, both politically and ecologically.
For over a decade, Waukesha has been studying and petitioning to have the right to draw water from the lake, which is only 20 miles east of the city. Restricting the city’s access to the water is the Great Lakes Compact, a 2008 federal law that stipulates that in order to draw water from the lakes, a community must be in the Great Lakes watershed. Despite the city’s proximity to the lake, it sits just west of the Saint Lawrence River Divide, outside of the watershed.
Two governing bodies maintain the Great Lakes Compact: the Great Lakes Council in the United States and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Water Resources Regional Body in Canada. The councils, consisting of governors from eight states and two Canadian provinces, would have to unanimously approve the city’s request. After the initial application in 2010, the council and city negotiated for six years, until the councils finally approved the request this June. The approval is based on the fact that the City of Waukesha is in a county that straddles the divide and the city’s aquifers are already partially naturally replenished from within the Great Lakes watershed. The decision also requires the city to return an equal amount of clean, treated water to the lake as it draws out. Not everyone is pleased with the decision though, and legal action is already pending.
The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (GLSL Cities Initiative) has issued a formal appeal to the Compact members to reverse the decision. The GLSL Cities Initiative is comprised of over 120 Great Lakes region city mayors, and it feels that a dangerous precedent is being set by allowing water to be taken from the lakes. It is also critical of the lack of transparency in the process of approval, which it says did not involve enough input from the public or local governments. The initiative has also written to U.S. President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the International Joint Commission, claiming the decision “exceeds the scope of authority granted in the Compact.”
As it stands the Waukesha has begun the permit process to build a $207-million system of pipelines to draw and return water to the lake. The water would not come directly from the lake, but from a town near the lake. Water would be returned by way of the Lake Michigan tributary Root River.
In and around Waco, Texas, public officials are working to create a county-wide “water grid” that would enable various water suppliers to work together to conserve and share water during droughts.
According to the Waco Tribune-Herald, McLennan County, Texas, has launched a study to determine the best way to make sure water is available to the residents of Waco and the surrounding region by pooling the resources of various suppliers.
County judge Scott Felton, an advocate for sustainable water planning and conservation, is leading the effort. Last year, Felton brought together the McLennan County Water Resources Group to help communities plan for shortages of clean water and the advent of contaminated water. The group secured a $75,000 grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to help fund the study.
Others working with McLennan County on the study include cities in the region, water supply corporations, the Brazos River Authority, a groundwater conservation district, and local residents and businesses.
Felton told the Waco Tribune-Herald that good planning is necessary to make sure water is available when it’s needed.
“Ultimately, the idea is not to waste water,” he told the newspaper. “This grant allows us to customize a plan specific for our county and our different water districts on how we can better utilize… water and how to conserve water to be prepared for those very dry seasons like we’ve seen recently.”
Even though the Greater Waco region’s water supply is more plentiful than some areas in Texas, Felton warns that communities need to become less dependent on groundwater from the shrinking Trinity Aquifer, which extends across central and northeastern Texas.
“What’s constant in this county is that our groundwater is going down, whether it’s raining or dry,” he said.
Tom Ray, water resources coordinator with Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam in Waco, the lead consultant on the study, told the Waco Tribune-Herald that the Trinity Aquifer is expected to drop between 250 and 450 feet by 2040. That’s as much as 19 feet a year in the Hewitt and Bellmead areas, which are expected to see the biggest drops.
County and city leaders say they envision a network of pipelines that could connect water users around the county and allow them to share water as needed. The final cost of that pipeline network is still under study.
The completed plan will establish a process for monitoring short-and long-term water availability, predict the probability for future droughts, evaluate the risks and impacts of drought, and prioritize mitigation actions.
Other ideas under study, according to the planners, include reclaiming more treated water from a regional sewer plant, making use of extensive water rights that the city has held in the Brazos River since 1914 (but does not use), and making more use of the Bluebonnet Water System, which draws water from Lake Belton.