Sierra Club is Dismayed with Waukesha Water Diversion Approval

Contact:  Bill Davis, Chapter Director, (608) 345-2087

Sierra Club is Dismayed by Waukesha Diversion Approval                                       

Chicago--Today, the Great Lakes Regional Body approved the City of Waukesha’s request to take water from Lake Michigan after adding a handful of amendments.  Each Governor had veto power and one vote not to approve the application would have resulted in a rejection. The Great Lakes Regional Body did restrict the size of the service area for the diversion and added a handful of requirements on Waukesha.

“The Sierra Club – John Muir Chapter is very disappointed in the action of Great Lakes Regional Body and the Governors of the Great Lakes states.  There was a viable alternative for Waukesha to have clean water.  Instead, Wisconsin’s DNR and the City put forth a more expensive option that sets a dangerous precedent,” stated Bill Davis, Director of the Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter, the state-wide branch of the Sierra Club.

The Diversion includes a return system that funnels the water through the Root River and back into Lake Michigan.  Melissa Warner, leader in the Sierra Club Southeast Gateway Group explained, "To say we are disappointed is an understatement.  The Root River will feel the effects for generations.  Monitoring of the river, both for water quality and structural integrity, will be imperative.  And the cost of that monitoring should be borne by Waukesha, not the citizens of Racine County."

“The additional enforcement and audit provisions are of little solace.  The enforcement provisions start after the diversion has been built, providing little opportunity to remedy any violations.  These provisions also require another state to act and do not allow the citizens of Wisconsin to enforce the provisions of the diversion.  We are leery that other states will not take the time or resources to watch over the Wisconsin DNR,” continued Davis.  He continued, “It’s unlikely they will be able to ‘close the barn doors after the horses have fled’, even if the other states chose to move in that direction.”

"The approved diversion will be enough to support a 45% increase in Waukesha's population.  The ACLU of Wisconsin, the Great Waters Group of the Sierra Club, Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope, and the Milwaukee Branch NAACP repeatedly pointed out the civil rights and environmental justice issues raised by this proposal as a result of the highly segregated nature of the southeastern Wisconsin region,” said Dennis Grzezinski, Legal Chair for the Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter.  He continued, “We are greatly disappointed that the Great Lakes Governors failed to address or even to acknowledge these issues in their decision.”

“The reality is this just opened the floodgates for other cities to apply to take water from the Great Lakes.  Worse, this set a precedent that the other cities don’t have to fully explore all options before applying to take water from one of the World’s largest freshwater resource,” concluded Davis.



Founded in 1892 by John Muir, the Sierra Club is America’s oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. The Sierra Club’s mission is to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth.  The Sierra Club – John Muir Chapter is made up of 15,000 members and supporters working to promote clean energy and protect water resources in Wisconsin.