Waukesha's Lake Michigan water pull; construction deadline met

The City of Waukesha has met the legal deadline to complete 50 percent of its Lake Michigan water supply construction project, Mayor Shawn Reilly said Thursday, Feb. 17. 

"We are on time and on budget," Reilly said. "We’re closing in on bringing a new supply of water to Waukesha in 2023 that will be safe and reliable for the long term." 

According to a press release, Waukesha is required to comply with federal drinking water standards for radium by September 1, 2023, but it also faced a deadline to have construction of the new water supply project at least 50 percent complete by May 31, 2022. 

"Today, our contractors officially notified the Waukesha Water Utility that we reached the halfway mark at the end of January," Reilly said. "This is a significant milestone with our project. If we had not gotten to 50 percent in time, we would have had to spend up to $5 million on studies and temporary radium treatment facilities that won’t be needed after we switch to Great Lakes water. I am proud that our team avoided this expense for ratepayers."

While safe to drink, Waukesha’s current groundwater supply does not fully meet federal radium standards. The supply is also severely depleted, making long-term use unsustainable. After years of study, the city determined it must switch to a Lake Michigan water supply to address both the sustainability and water quality issues. This was approved by Great Lakes governors in 2016. 

The city’s project, dubbed the Great Water Alliance, includes a pipeline to bring Lake Michigan water from the Milwaukee Water Works to Waukesha, and another pipeline to return it to the Great Lakes Basin after use and treatment. It also includes other infrastructure, including the new booster pumping station being built in east-central Waukesha, off East Broadway east of Les Paul Parkway.

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Construction crews have completed 21 of the 36 miles of water supply and return flow pipelines.

The project to borrow and return Lake Michigan water required years of design and permitting after the Compact approval in 2016. Construction began in late 2020 and is expected to be completed by the fall of 2023.

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