The Wisconsin legislature, back in a special session, appears ready to approve the Great Lakes compact as part of a major overhaul of the state’s water law. In addition to approving the Great Lakes compact, other key provisions of the massive bill (it’s over a hundred pages) include:
- establishing a statewide water supply planning process for public water supply systems
- requiring all water withdrawals in the state over 100,000 gallons per day (gpd) to register and report water use
- creating a new permit system for water withdrawals over 100,000 gpd within the state’s portion of the Great Lakes basin, with general permits for withdrawals under 1,000,000 gpd and individual permits required for withdrawals over 1,000,000 gpd
- establishing a voluntary statewide water conservation and efficiency program with the state Department of Natural Resources promulgating rules specifying water conservation and efficiency measures (however, the DNR rules may not require retrofitting of existing fixtures, appliances, or equipment)
For more information, the Wisconsin Legislative Council’s 35-page analysis of the bill provides an excellent detailed summary of both the Great Lakes compact and statewide provisions. Despite some concerns regarding the closed process of the special session and loopholes in the bill (see the thorough posts on this issue from Jim Rowen’s blog, The Political Environment), environmental groups in Wisconsin are now applauding the legislation. I’ll add to the applause. Despite some compromises, the bill approves the Great Lakes compact (something that was never certain in Wisconsin) and makes several important improvements to statewide water law in Wisconsin.