Building Operating Management

Not a Drop?

By Ed Sullivan   BOM

A former Wisconsin governor once called his state “the OPEC of water.” It’s bordered east and north by Lakes Michigan and Superior, two immense freshwater bodies that cover more of the earth’s surface than the state itself; the water they hold is measured in cubic miles, not gallons. And sources of water here aren’t limited to the Great Lakes — the Badger State is dappled with lakes and criss-crossed by rivers.

Wisconsin must be insulated from concerns about the cost of water, right? Not so fast.

As a result of heavy spring rains, the state’s largest city, Milwaukee, dumped 4.5 billion gallons of combined storm water runoff and raw sewage into Lake Michigan earlier this year.

And this happened after completion of a “deep tunnel” project that was expected to solve the city’s sewerage problems. To be fair, the deep tunnel was intended to address a different problem: sewage backing up into residents’ basements. But it turns out that was only half of the problem. To eliminate the dumping of untreated sewage, the sewerage district would need to separate sanitary and storm water runoff systems.

Drought isn’t the only thing that can drive up water prices. Situations like the one in Milwaukee show why water efficiency is becoming an important economic issue for many facilities.

No decision has been made to create separate sewerage systems in Milwaukee. But that seems like the only way to spare local citizens the sight of disposable diapers floating in the lake. What do you think that will do to sewerage costs here in the OPEC of water?

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  posted on 10/1/2004   Article Use Policy