WAUKESHA, Wis. — The Wisconsin city of Waukesha was once known for its mineral-rich springs. But now its underground aquifer is polluted. So the city wants to draw from Lake Michigan, only 15 miles away.
But there’s a catch.
It’s illegal to tap into the Great Lakes from outside their watershed unless the eight states in the region agree. Waukesha has the hard luck to lie just beyond the watershed boundary. So it’s preparing to seek permission.
City officials say Lake Michigan is the only reasonable alternative. They say they’ll return virtually all the water they take.
But skeptics fear setting a precedent that could lead other cities to make the same request.
It’s a sensitive issue in a region where fresh water is an economic advantage over the Sun Belt.