DNR approves New Berlin request to divert Lake Michigan Water
Published: May 21, 2009 by the Central Office
Contact(s): Todd Ambs, (608) 264-6278
MADISON - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources today announced the City of New Berlin has received state approval to divert water from Lake Michigan. The diversion approval enables New Berlin to receive additional Lake Michigan water from Milwaukee to supply parts of the city lying outside the Great Lakes Basin. All of New Berlin's water, including that supplied to areas outside the Great Lakes Basin will return to Lake Michigan.
"New Berlin made a strong water diversion application that outlines effective water conservation efforts and benefits public health," said Todd Ambs, DNR Water Division Administrator. "We will continue to work with New Berlin and closely monitor this project."
New Berlin is authorized to withdraw a maximum of an average of 2.142 million gallons per day to areas of the city outside the Great Lakes Basin. This volume essentially replaces the amount the city currently gets from groundwater wells that produce water with radium levels exceeding state and federal health standards. The city will continue to return water to the Lake Michigan Basin via Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, resulting in no net loss of water from the Great Lakes Basin.
The approval requires that New Berlin enhance its existing water conservation efforts to pursue its goal of reducing residential water use. In addition, the city must meet monitoring and reporting requirements specified by the DNR to ensure that the water withdrawal is closely tracked.
"The city's application meets the terms of the Great Lakes Compact," said Ambs. "New Berlin will return every drop of water that it uses back to Lake Michigan. The water returned will have higher water quality than is currently discharged to Lake Michigan by New Berlin and the city has committed to develop a plan to reduce its overall water use in the future."
The Great Lakes Compact is a federal law that was ratified by Great Lakes states and passed through Congress in 2008 with Governor Jim Doyle's strong leadership. The Compact protects the Great Lakes by managing water quantity as well as promoting water conservation and efficiency. Diversions of Great Lakes water are prohibited with limited exceptions. One exception allows a community whose boundaries straddle the basin to apply for a diversion if the water will be used solely for public water supply purposes, if the water withdrawn is returned to the Great Lakes Basin, and if other specific statutory requirements are met. New Berlin is a straddling community, and diversion requests from such communities are considered by the state instead of by all eight Great Lakes states.
New Berlin already receives Lake Michigan water from the city of Milwaukee for portions of New Berlin east of the sub-continental divide, the natural dividing line where rain and other runoff drains into streams in the Great Lakes basin instead of the Mississippi River basin. The New Berlin areas outside the Great Lakes Basin are currently served by groundwater wells that produce drinking water with high levels of radium. Long-term exposure of the naturally occurring contaminant can cause cancer. Approval of New Berlin's diversion request enables the city to assure all the drinking water it serves its residents meets state and federal standards for radium.