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Waukesha water problem could become slippery slope

By Joe Yovino

When I think of water problems, I think of Arizona or Nevada or a desert somewhere – not a city a few miles west of the 22nd-largest city in the U.S.

But that’s the fact facing Waukesha tonight, and it’s a problem that has huge implications for the future.

The Waukesha Common Council will consider whether the city should apply for state approval to spend $164 million to build a pipeline, pump stations and other infrastructure to buy Lake Michigan water and pump it to the city.

Honestly, Joe Homeowner probably doesn’t sweat a drip of salty water over this issue until it affects his water bill. But maybe he should pay attention now.

Consider what’s going on in the small north-central Wisconsin city of Abbotsford. The 2,000 residents living in the city a few miles west of Wausau have been dealing with a water emergency.

They’ve had to issue emergency conservation measures to protect the water they have. There’s an entire page on the city’s Web site devoted to water education. Residents are forbidden to wash their cars, water their gardens and use water for any other outdoor activity.

During the past 20 years, Abbotsford has drilled more than 200 test wells looking for a new and reliable water source.  The city has decided to solve its immediate problem by building 12 wells, a water treatment plant and three pump houses.

Abbotsford now has a proposal to tap into the water supply in Wausau. It’s in front of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources now.

Sound familiar, Waukesha?

Joe Yovino is the Web editor at The Daily Reporter. He’s feeling water-blogged.

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