Waukesha, Wisconsin is the first U.S. city to get approval to divert water from the Great Lakes, and this precedent-setting request is raising concern in Canada and the U.S. alike.
The city of 70,000’s aquifer is running low and the water is contaminated with high levels of naturally occurring, cancer-causing radium. They will be drawing 31 million litres daily from Lake Michigan.
After “input” from Ontario and Quebec, eight states adjoining the great lakes gave unaimous approval to Waukesha’s $207-million proposal in a meeting on Tuesday.
Michigan Govener Rick Snyder commented on the issue, saying “Voting yes in co-operation with our Great Lakes neighbours is the best way to conserve one of our greatest natural resources. Mandating strict conditions for withdrawing and returning the water sets a strong precedent for protecting the Great Lakes.”
What makes this decision dangerous is that “Waukesha has known about elevated radium levels in their water supply for decades and has failed to act,” said members of the environmental group Sierra Club in an interview with the CBC.
While taxpayers in Canada work hard (and pay taxes!) to protect their water supply, this decision means that the growing water contamination problem– which has resulted not from water shortages, but from failures on behalf of U.S. governments at a state level– is now a Canadian problem.
Image via Michael Pereckas