Northland College

If caretakers of the Great Lakes aren’t careful, thirsty people from all corners of the world could come calling for our abundant supply of fresh, clean water.

So warns Peter Annin’s book “The Great Lakes Water Wars," first published in 2006.

Susan Bence

A Wisconsin town is getting a lot of attention these days, on the issue of drinking water. Waukesha lies outside the Great Lakes basin, but it has received permission to take water from Lake Michigan. Officials are still debating the political and financial impact, and a group of mayors is challenging the town’s action.

NASA Landsat

The city of Waukesha, Wisconsin has high levels of radium in its water supply. The city hopes to solve the problem by taking water out of Lake Michigan.

Waukesha is in a county that straddles the Great Lakes basin and under the Great Lakes Compact, it’s allowed to ask for a water diversion. Waukesha’s proposal is now before the eight Great Lakes states that make up the compact. They’ll decide whether or not to allow the diversion.

The City of Waukesha, Wisconsin says it has nowhere else to go for water but to the Great Lakes. This week, it submitted an application to take 10 million gallons a day, on average, from Lake Michigan. But first it would have to meet a number of strict requirements that all eight Great Lakes states have agreed to.

Exception to Ban

The states hammered out a ban on water diversions over several years and the governors signed it and the Congress ratified it five years ago.