WAUKESHA Wis. — After years of planning and construction, Waukesha is entering a new era on how it supplies water to residents.

What You Need To Know

  • Lake Michigan is now the main source of water for Waukesha

  • Prior to the switch, the city relied on a deep water aquifer, but because of radium, it was no longer safe

  • The city needed the approval of every Great Lakes state and Ontario and Quebec

  • Waukesha Water Utility has also created an interactive map to track how Lake Michigan water is flowing through the city

Lake Michigan is now the city’s main source of water.

Kelly Zylstra is the operations manager for Waukesha Water Utility.

Before the switch was made, she thought about the video that captured the moment water first flowed into the reservoir.

“It’s the moment in time where everything we have done in the last 20 years came into reality. You can watch the construction going on here. To see the actual water flow was just an incredible moment,” said Zylstra.

Zylstra said there were still a few more things that needed to be done.

“Doing some chemical tests on them [water], making sure the parameters are safe, are what we need before we send them to our customers and then finishing up the city inspections we need for temporary occupancy,” said Zylstra.

Throughout Waukesha’s history, the city relied on a deep-water aquifer for its water supply.

However, because of radium in the water, that source was no longer safe.

That began the process of convincing every Great Lakes state, Ontario and Quebec to allow Waukesha to use water from Lake Michigan instead. Once that was approved, the city set up an agreement with Milwaukee to have that water pumped to them.

(Spectrum News 1/Phillip Boudreaux)

Project Construction Manager Jeff Champion said they set up monitors to track the condition of the water flowing into the city.

“PH is a process that we monitor for that. Depending on the level of the PH, it affects how other chemicals added to the system for the disinfectants react,” said Champion.

Chris Walter is the technical services manager. He said they also set up a water transition interactive map for the public. That’s because not all residents will be getting water from the lake at the same time.

“It answers a lot of questions for people, the public that they can just refer to this map and the website as it’s happening and not be wondering when the water is getting to my house,” said Walter. “This will give them a pretty good idea of when that’s going to happen, how that’s happening.”

Zylstra said the Waukesha Water Utility also installed blow out valves and hydrant flushing locations. This will make sure the water flows through the city faster.

“I moved to the city in ‘98. I have had the privilege of being the operations manager starting in 2017. Prior to that, I was the technical services manager for the water utilities since 2012 and I have been in the water industry since ‘93 so this is a wonderful opportunity to bring fresh, clean and sustainable water to the community that I call home,” said Zylstra.

With Lake Michigan water flowing through the city, Zylstra said she is committed to making sure that residents will be able to use this source for generations to come.