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The President's defense budget 'hike'

Wed, 2015-02-04 02:00

President Barack Obama's fiscal year 2016 budget proposes an increase in funding for the Department of Defense. But defense spending these days is about more than just the Pentagon's budget.

Click the media player above to hear more.

In prison, a cell phone is a dangerous weapon

Wed, 2015-02-04 02:00

When you think of all the things that prisoners aren’t allowed to have on them, cell phones might not top the list. But, for prison officials, they do.

“Prison officials see this as the most dangerous form of contraband,” says Kevin Roose, senior editor at Fusion, whose ongoing three-part story explored how prisoners use technology.

U.S. Prisons, says Roose, are spending millions of dollars to keep cell phones out of prisons.

Mostly because they have been used in the past to harass victims or even coordinate crimes from behind bars.  

Now, prisons are trying out something called a “managed access system.” It acts like a cell tower, and intercepts data and calls from the person using the phone before they reach the carrier. If you are not one of the people authorised to be sending or receiving calls or texts, you’re blocked from doing so. Managed access systems can cost up to $1 million, but many correctional systems think they have a better chance blocking the phones than keeping them out of the hands of inmates.

Why? Because the phones are usually smuggled in by the guards themselves, who, according to Roose, charge prisoners “hundreds or thousands of dollars a piece.” Soon, an “underground economy” crops up: an inmate who has a phone starts renting it out to others.

But not everyone is using cell phones for the same purpose. In some cases, Roose found, people just wanted to find a way to “stave off the loneliness.” Like one man who makes 6 second videos for Vine. He even has a couple of hundred followers. 

Defending the Great Lakes' water from outsiders

Wed, 2015-02-04 02:00

My hometown of Waukesha, Wisconsin, used to be famous for its refreshing, clear spring water. Back in the late 19th century, people flocked to Waukesha to drink water at mineral springs and hang out at fancy summer resorts and mud baths. But those good water days are past. Now, the city’s making headlines because the drinking water from its deepest wells are tainted with radium. The city is looking to ditch those underground wells and permanently get its drinking water from Lake Michigan, 15 miles to the east. But that proposal is neither cheap, nor without controversy.

The water from Waukesha’s deep wells draw water that’s over three times the federal limit for radium. Radium occurs naturally, but lifetime exposure is a cancer risk. And the deeper you go in the sandstone aquifer underneath the region, the more radium in the water.

Waukesha is under a consent order to fix the problem. Since the mid-2000’s, it’s been diluting its bad water with radium-free water from shallow wells. But it still doesn’t meet federal requirements on hot summer days. So the city is proposing what it sees as the best long-term solution, a pipeline to Lake Michigan.

“Really, it’s a no brainer of a decision,” says Dan Duchniak, general manager of the Waukesha Water Utility. “The Great Lakes is the best, most reliable and only reasonable alternative for the city of Waukesha.”

Certainly it’s the least complicated solution for the city. But the Great Lakes Compact, which governs water diversions from the five Great Lakes, doesn’t care about simple and direct. The compact was enacted, in part, out of fears that drought-prone cities in the Southwest might someday get desperate enough to make a bid for Great Lakes water. So the compact’s framers made it difficult for cities beyond the Great Lakes basin to divert water from the lakes, even cities as close as Waukesha. 

“We have had some unbelievable policy and big programs designed to move water great distances, and now we’re starting to see there are problems with that,” says Peter McAvoy, counsel for the Great Lakes Compact Implementation Coalition, a watchdog group.

Under the compact, Waukesha will have to prove it can’t find a reasonable alternative to Lake Michigan closer to home, among other demands. All eight of the Great Lakes states, from Minnesota to New York, have to sign off on Waukesha’s diversion request. Even Quebec and Ontario get to comment.

Waukesha’s request and the response to it will set a precedent under the compact. It’s the first time a city outside the Great Lakes basin has asked to divert water from one of the  lakes. Eric Ebersberger, chief of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ water use section, says the burden of proof will be heavy.

“The administration here has been very clear that this should be very difficult,” Ebersberger says. “It should be difficult to prove up an application for a diversion.”

Under the rules of the compact, Waukesha would be required to treat and return the water it takes from the lake, and the amount of water the city is asking for is relatively trivial. But the state has asked the city for thousands of pages of documentation since it first applied five years ago. Not surprisingly, politics has delayed the process, too. Initial talks with Milwaukee to supply the water fell apart.

Peter Annin, author of “The Great Lakes Water Wars,” says it boils down to this: “The citizens of Milwaukee say, if you want to use Lake Michigan water, move to our great city and use it. We don’t want to see it leaving town and contributing to sprawl in the suburbs.”

Waukesha has since struck a deal to buy Lake Michigan water from Oak Creek, a Milwaukee suburb. But the city’s plans have raised regional debate about what it means for a city to live within its water supply. The suspicion that Waukesha is leveraging its water plan for economic growth persists, because the city's application asks for more water than it currently uses and anticipates supplying water to areas currently outside its borders. 

Peter McAvoy says that will raise red flags with the states deciding Waukesha’s water fate. “Their own studies show that they’re talking about industrial and business growth,” McAvoy says. “Is that reasonable? Will that come at the expense of other communities in the Great Lakes?”

Here's Peter McAvoy talking about the importance of Lake Michigan:

Just how much growth and what kind the compact allows water applicants isn’t clear. Waukesha officials insist the growth they anticipate is modest and follows regional planning guidelines. They don’t want to underestimate future water needs, especially in the middle of an economic recovery. If they did, they’d have to go back and ask for more, starting the long application process all over again.

“Development that happens in Waukesha is not a zero sum game where we take it away from Milwaukee,” insists Waukesha mayor Shawn Reilly.

If Waukesha loses its bid for Lake Michigan water, it’ll have to come up with more local alternatives. Skeptics of the city’s Lake Michigan bid have urged Waukesha to look at  options like drilling more shallow wells, along with stricter water conservation and higher water rates. They’ve also urged the city to consider riverbank inducement wells or even a wastewater recycling plant. 

Water levels in the deep aquifer have rebounded some since 2000, a factor that could weaken the city’s argument for Great Lakes water. But the city insists the deep aquifer isn’t sustainable and has rejected other, more local solutions as either too short-term, environmentally problematic, or too pricey.

Doug Cherkauer, a hydrogeologist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, says he understands why Waukesha chose Lake Michigan to solve its water crisis.

“It’s cheaper, easier and more direct,” he says. “But the ultimate solution in the case of Waukesha and nationally is to treat our wastewater to the point that it’s not contaminated anymore. That’s technologically possible now. It’s not cheap.”

Whatever Waukesha ends up doing to fix its water problem won’t be cheap. Utility head Dan Duchniak expects water rates to double, if not triple in the future. Paul Vrakas, 87, a former mayor, says back in the 70’s and 80’s, city leaders thought water was “a bottomless pit.” Now he thinks otherwise.

“We’ve lived in our country with these important things that we need in our lives being very cheap,” Vrakas says. “Well, we’re going to have to spend more money on that important stuff than on an extra pair of jeans, do you know what I’m saying?”

 

A cold glass of inflation to go with your cookies

Wed, 2015-02-04 01:30
$6.3 billion

That's how much Staples will pay in cash and stocks to acquire Office Depot. As reported by the New York Times, the buy-out will likely face antitrust scrutiny; the same deal was denied in 1997.

1

The number items McDonald's and Chipotle both served — fountain soda — over the eight years the former was an investor in the latter. Since Golden Arches sold its stake in 2006, the companies have been on opposite paths, with Chipotle's sales exploding on the strength of its dead-simple menu, sustainability-minded supply chains and the burgeoning fast-casual movement and McDonald's languishing. The pair's strange marriage and the rest of Chip's history are detailed in a new Bloomberg oral history. 

$5

The new price of Girl Scout cookies in Orange County, California this year, up from $4. The Scouts point to inflation, but the folks and Quartz aren't so sure, and they have the complex charts to prove it.

$792 million

One conservative estimate of American sex toy sales by 2017, up from $610 million in 2013. The film adaptation of "Fifty Shades of Grey" — out Valentine's Day weekend — will likely contribute to that bump, the New York Times reported. Sex shops and Target alike are preparing for the release with special tie-in toys. They'll be better prepared than they were when the book came out in 2011 — some retailers couldn't keep certain toys used by the characters in stock.

$26 billion

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Actually, not really. Alibaba CEO Jack Ma still has a net worth of $24.5 billion, but that's not enough to keep him at the top of the list of China's wealthiest. As reported by Reuters, that honor has been taken by Li Hejun, a solar energy entrepreneur, whose net worth is an astounding $26 billion. 

More jobs research? Add it to the budget

Tue, 2015-02-03 15:19

Tucked into the president's budget Monday was a little extra something something for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Specifically, it allocated a couple of million dollars to let them fold what's called "the quits rate" — people leaving their jobs in search of greener pastures — into the monthly data.

It'll let us talk about even more jobs stuff every month.

Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen looks at it pretty closely too. So there's that.

 

An aerial map quest, with drones

Tue, 2015-02-03 13:09

Skycatch is a company built around drones. But CEO Christian Sanz isn't interested in using drones to deliver goods or spy on people.

"For us, it's just another server that happens to have propellers on it," Sanz says.

Skycatch uses drones to obtain aerial 3D images of construction sites. Companies use the detailed maps for planning and coordinating. In some cases, businesses use the maps to help them automate bulldozers and other construction equipment on the ground.

"We are the first company to automate another machine using a drone," Sanz says.

According to Sanz, using Skycatch's services is as simple as opening up an app. "We invented this concept of being able to, at any given point, open up your app and make a call or just highlight the area you want mapped, and we immediately match you up with a pilot," he says.

And for all the budding drone pilots out there, Skycatch is looking for recruits.

"Right now we are going through a process of verifying and also certifying pilots," Sanz says.

Skycatch uses drones to make 3D aerial maps

Tue, 2015-02-03 13:09

Skycatch is a company built around drones. But CEO Christian Sanz isn't interested in using drones to deliver stuff or spy on people.

"For us, it's just another server that happens to have propellers on it," Sanz says.

Skycatch uses drones to obtain aerial 3D images of construction sites. Companies use the detailed maps for planning and coordinating. In some cases, businesses even use the maps so they can automate bulldozers and other construction equipment on the ground.

"We are the first company to automate another machine using a drone," Sanz says.

According to Sanz, using Skycatch's services is as simple as opening up an app. "We invented this concept of being able to, at any given point, open up your app and make a call or just highlight the area you want mapped and we immediately match you up with a pilot," he says.

And for all the budding drone pilots out there, Skycatch is looking for recruits.

"Right now we are going through a process of verifying and also certifying pilots," Sanz says.

RadioShack's long road to bankruptcy

Tue, 2015-02-03 10:38

RadioShack is preparing to shut down amid bankruptcy.  The chain has over 4,000 U.S. stores, but they have been struggling for quite some time. Things finally came to a head as the 'Shack lost about 90 percent of its value over the past year, and shares sunk Monday.

"One of the most common sentiments I heard when I first started making phone calls for this story was 'I can’t believe it’s taken this long for this to happen to RadioShack,'" says Josh Brustein of Bloomberg.

Sprint and Amazon have separately been in talks with RadioShack about acquiring some stores and closing the rest.

"For the last couple of months, RadioShack has really been kind of circling the drain," says Brustein. "It’s been clear that the most likely outcome was bankruptcy – that doesn’t mean that it would disappear altogether. But basically, what has to be sorted out in bankruptcy is what happens to all these stores."

UPS and FedEx increase fuel surcharge – because they can

Tue, 2015-02-03 10:07

UPS handed investors mixed news when it announced 2014 earnings. Shipping volumes were way up, but profits were down. The company made big investments to meet the 2014 holiday rush – including about 100,000 temporary hires— but didn’t get quite as much revenue out as it had wanted.

Still, don’t feel too bad for UPS. CEO David Abney said the company would start tacking on extra holiday charges. And these are in addition to fee increases by both UPS and rival FedEx that include hikes in fuel surcharges, even though the price of fuel is down. 

FedEx has actually raised its fuel charge, from 5.5 percent to 6 percent. The UPS formula is more complicated: The company has changed how it calculates the fee for ground shipments, so the surcharge doesn't reflect a drop in fuel prices.  

"The price of a gallon of fuel is down a buck," says Jerry Hempstead, a consultant who works with shipping customers to help them get better rates. "You would think: "Oh, the fuel surcharge could even go away.' Well, no."

He thinks it’s the opposite of a price war. First UPS had higher rates. FedEx bumped. Now it’s UPS’ turn.

"They did it because they could," he says.

The price of sending a package includes a bundle of smaller charges, many of which have gone up. The “base rate” just saw annual increases of about 5 percent from both carriers. There are also bumps in “accessorial charges"— like extra fees for delivering to remote locations.

The biggest increase comes from a new way of charging for smaller packages. Instead of charging by weight, shippers now also count the size. That change alone raised shipping prices by an average of 17 percent, according to an analysis by Shipware LLC, another company that helps shipping customers negotiate with carriers.

Not all companies will feel that cost the same way, says Rob Martinez, Shipware's president and CEO. A company that makes microwaves and refrigerators, for instance, wouldn't necessarily take a hit. 

"Other shippers, it is literally doubling some of their costs," he says, meaning companies that ship lightweight items in bigger boxes. 

Martinez thinks FedEx and UPS can impose these fees because they’re the only two national companies in the business.

"It’s great for UPS and FedEx investors," he says. "But lack of competition is bad for shippers."

Some of his customers are giving the U.S. Postal Service another look. "Their 'Priority Mail' product is actually a pretty good product," Martinez says.

The what-ifs of net neutrality

Tue, 2015-02-03 10:06

This week, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to propose reclassifying how Internet service providers are regulated, treating them treated like utilities. The idea is to foster net neutrality, so all data flowing across the Internet is treated equally.

What would the new regulation mean for consumers?  

Internet service providers don’t like the idea of being regulated like a phone company. They say that would pave the way for more taxes on consumers, like those that appear on phone bills. But Congress has prohibited state and local governments from collecting new Internet taxes. So what about federal taxes?

“We don’t know which way the FCC is going to go on any particular provision,” says Jodie Griffin, a senior staff attorney for the consumer group Public Knowledge. The FCC could add a universal service fee to your Internet bill, she says. The fee already appears on phone bills and is used in part to extend phone service to high-cost areas at reasonable rates. But Griffin says the total amount collected might not change. 

“So there will be some people who are not paying now who would be paying something, and there will be other people who are paying now who will be paying less,” she says. 

Other consumer advocates say the FCC could delve into the issue of Internet privacy.

“We’ll have a lot more privacy tomorrow than we do today,” says Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog.  The FCC could use its new authority to prevent tracking on the Internet, he says, but the key word is "could."

Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of law and computer science at Harvard University, says: “Everybody can keep powder dry.  I don’t think there are any immediate changes."

FCC officials seem to be just focusing on net neutrality, Zittrain says. “These are not wild-eyed radicals somehow wanting to blow up the system,” he says.

Zittrain says these are all things the FCC could do, if it wanted to – and that’s a big if.

Curious about what net neutrality means?

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What's changed in the credit ratings business?

Tue, 2015-02-03 10:05

Quick refresher: When mortgage-backed securities and derivatives suddenly collapsed into a black hole of toxic assets in 2008, people immediately asked why credit ratings agencies had listed them as good investments.

And then people sued the credit agencies.

Standard and Poor's, one of country’s top ratings agencies, just settled $1.38 billion in lawsuits with 19 states and the District of Columbia, the Department of Justice and the California Public Employee Retirement System. Last month, the agency paid $86 million to settle charges with the Securities and Exchanges Commission and several State Attorneys General. And now, it’s Moody’s turn to be probed by the Department of Justice.

Has anything changed since 2008 in how credit ratings agencies do business?

“The whole industry and certainly Standard and Poor’s has been transformed over recent years,” says Adam Schuman, chief legal officer of S&P Ratings Services. The SEC has expanded regulatory oversight, with an entire department focused just on ratings agencies. 

Standard and Poor’s says it now has a governance board that includes SEC-certified independent board members to oversee how the firm manages conflict of interest risk, and that S&P conducts investigations into the quality of its ratings and compliance by its employees. Schuman also says those employees are evaluated for their adherence to company rules designed to protect the quality of ratings. 

But critics are still strident, arguing that no matter how conflicts are managed, the incentives to inflate ratings still exist. "The fundamental conflict of interest that has led to this litigation and massive settlements still exists," says Daniel Drosman, an attorney with Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd who has successfully sued ratings agencies. "You have ratings agencies being paid by the institutions whose bonds they are grading."

Bill Harrington, an independent researcher and former Moody’s employee, goes further. He says the problems don't stop with ratings agencies but extend among the many other parties to any complex financial instrument. “It’s the credit rating agencies, the bank underwriters and the counsel looking at a deal’s merits, and the auditors ... none of them gets paid unless the deal closes with a triple-A rating.”

Quiz: Saving college savings from taxes

Tue, 2015-02-03 08:06

President Obama backed away from a proposal to tax 529 college savings accounts, which 3 percent of Americans use.

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Waukesha: A spa town that took its water for granted

Tue, 2015-02-03 06:47

My hometown of Waukesha, Wisconsin, is surrounded by water. There are creeks and rivers. The fourth biggest lake in the world, Lake Michigan, lies 17 miles to the east. Every year the city gets an average 34 inches of rain and 40 inches of snow. Yet Waukesha has a big water problem. Its deepwater wells are contaminated with radium and salts, and now the city needs to figure out a new source of drinking water. How did a city in such a water-rich state get into such a pickle?

Waukesha’s water story started out well enough. In the late 1800s the town was known as the “Saratoga of the West.” People flocked there in summer, 25 trainloads a day, to drink cold, pure water from dozens of mineral springs around town.They thought the water could cure such ailments as diabetes and depression. John Schoenknecht, author of “The Great Waukesha Springs Era: 1868-1918,” says Waukesha water was so prized that when a savvy entrepreneur tried to pipe it down to Chicago for its world’s fair in 1893,  townspeople nearly rioted, fending off his work crews with pistols and rifles.

Eventually the springs and fancy summer resorts there fell out of fashion. Most of the springs were paved over or dried up as the city developed. But Waukesha’s reputation for good water survived, even when grittier industries moved in, including many foundries. All the factories needed water. To meet the demand the city drilled new wells, some nearly 2,000 feet deep, into the sandstone aquifer.   

When my family moved there in 1969, Waukesha was a suburb with almost 40,000 people. Dairy farmers just outside the city’s borders were selling their land to developers who wanted to build new subdivisions. “They were just coming into City Hall like crazy wanting to annex,” says Paul Vrakas, 87. He was Waukesha’s mayor during much of the city’s growth spurt. “It was like having a tiger by the tail, and I think we did a great job,” he says.

If the city hadn’t annexed all the new subdivisions that wanted city water, developers would have built them anyway, Vrakas says. But on oversized lots with private wells and septic systems that eventually would fail. “We, of course, had the treatment plant, state-of-the-art treatment plant and municipal water,” he says. “So it made sense for the city to accept the growth and do it properly.”

City officials weren’t worried about the water supply. Waukesha water customers paid some of the lowest rates in the state. The more a customer used, the lower the rate. Peter Annin, author of “The Great Lakes Water Wars,” says the city’s policies actually encouraged lawn watering. “Because you got a credit on your water bill if you had water that was used but didn’t end up back in the sewer system,” Annin says.

But in 1987 Waukesha’s water officially became a problem. The state put the city on notice. Its drinking water was contaminated. Radium levels were over twice the legal limit. The aquifer beneath the city recharges slowly, and years of overpumping had lowered the water table hundreds of feet. “As you use this water over time, over the last 100 years when we’ve developed groundwater and used it, we’ve drawn down the aquifer to the point where we’re pulling up the water that’s contaminated," says Dan Duchniak, general manager of the Waukesha Water Utility.

Radium is a naturally occurring metal that’s common in groundwater pumped from sandstone aquifers. But the deeper you go, the higher the concentrations. Lifetime exposure increases the risk of cancer.

The state ordered Waukesha to fix its radium problem. But the city resisted. It fought regulators and ultimately sued the Environmental Protection Agency. Fixing the problem was going to be expensive, and city leaders believed the government was overreaching. “In fact, the Argonne Laboratory said that amount of radium was no hazard,” Vrakas says. “And many local doctors told me the same thing as well.”

Nearly two decades later, after a federal appeals court ruled against the city, Waukesha finally decided to stand down. By then, the city’s population had grown another 20 percent.  And its water quality had grown worse. “Waukesha is this poster child of what can happen when you assume that water will just always be there,” Peter Annin says. "And what surprises a lot of people is that here we are in one of the richest water areas of the globe, and yet, we are still fighting over water here in the Great Lakes region.”

But water-challenged cities like Waukesha know they need a secure water supply to keep and attract economic investment. Right now, the city is pinning its hopes on an expensive proposal to pipe water in from Lake Michigan. That’s something those pistol-packing Waukeshans who didn’t want their water piped out to Chicago probably never could have imagined. 

For more on the story of Waukesha's changing water situation, watch the slideshow below:

Photo credit: Jeffrey Phelps
Historical photos courtesy of: Waukesha County Historical Society and Museum

Waukesha: a spa town that took its water for granted

Tue, 2015-02-03 06:47

My hometown of Waukesha, Wisconsin, is surrounded by water. There are creeks and rivers. The fourth biggest lake in the world, Lake Michigan, lies 17 miles to the east. Every year the city gets an average 34 inches of rain and 40 inches of snow. Yet Waukesha has a big water problem. Its deepwater wells are contaminated with radium and salts and now the city needs to figure out a new source of drinking water. How did a city in such a water-rich state get into such a pickle?

Waukesha’s water story started out well enough. In fact, in the late 1800’s the town was known as the “Saratoga of the West.” People flocked there in summer, 25 trainloads a day, to drink cold, pure water from dozens of mineral springs around town.They thought the water could cure everything from diabetes to depression. John Schoenknecht, author of “The Great Waukesha Springs Era: 1868-1918,” says Waukesha water was so prized that when a savvy entrepreneur tried to pipe it down to Chicago for its world’s fair in 1893,  townspeople nearly rioted, fending off his work crews with pistols and rifles.

Eventually, the springs and fancy summer resorts here fell out of fashion. Most of the springs got paved over or dried up as the city developed. But Waukesha’s reputation for good water survived, even when grittier industries moved in, including many foundries. All the factories needed water. To meet the demand the city drilled new wells, some of them nearly 2,000 feet deep into the sandstone aquifer.   

By 1969 when my family moved there, Waukesha was a suburb with almost 40,000 people. Dairy farmers just outside the city’s borders were selling their land to developers who wanted to build new subdivisions. “They were just coming into City Hall like crazy wanting to annex,” says Paul Vrakas, 87. Vrakas was Waukesha’s mayor during much of the city’s growth spurt. “It was like having a tiger by the tail and I think we did a great job,” he says.

If the city hadn’t annexed all the new subdivisions that wanted city water, Vrakas says, developers would have built them anyway. But on oversized lots with private wells and septic systems that eventually would fail. “We, of course, had the treatment plant, state-of-the-art treatment plant and municipal water,” he says. “So it made sense for the city to accept the growth and do it properly.”

City officials weren’t worried about the water supply. Waukesha water customers paid some of the lowest rates in the state. In fact, the more a customer used, the lower the rate. Peter Annin, author of “The Great Lakes Water Wars,” says the city’s policies actually encouraged lawn watering. “Because you got a credit on your water bill if you had water that was used but didn’t end up back in the sewer system,” Annin says.

But in 1987 Waukesha’s water officially became a problem. The state put the city on notice. Its drinking water was contaminated. Radium levels were over twice the legal limit. The aquifer beneath the city recharges slowly, and years of overpumping had lowered the water table hundreds of feet. “As you use this water over time, over the last 100 years when we’ve developed groundwater and used it, we’ve drawn down the aquifer to the point where we’re pulling up the water that’s contaminated," says Dan Duchniak, general manager of the Waukesha Water Utility.

Radium is a naturally occurring metal that’s common in groundwater pumped from sandstone aquifers. But the deeper you go, the higher the concentrations. Lifetime exposure increases the risk of cancer.

The state ordered Waukesha to fix its radium problem. But the city resisted. It fought regulators and ultimately sued the Environmental Protection Agency. Fixing the problem was going to be expensive, and city leaders believed the government was overreaching. “In fact, the Argonne Laboratory said that amount of radium was no hazard,” Vrakas says. “And many local doctors told me the same thing as well.”

Nearly two decades later, after a federal appeals court ruled against the city, Waukesha finally decided to stand down. By then, the city’s population had grown another 20 percent.  And its water quality had grown worse. “Waukesha is this poster child of what can happen when you assume that water will just always be there,” Peter Annin says. And what surprises a lot of people is that here we are in one of the richest water areas of the globe, and yet, we are still fighting over water here in the Great Lakes region.”

But water-challenged cities like Waukesha know they need a secure water supply to keep and attract economic investment. Right now, the city is pinning its hopes on an expensive proposal to pipe water in from Lake Michigan. That’s something those pistol-packing Waukeshans who didn’t want their water piped out to Chicago probably never could have imagined. 

For more on the story of Waukesha's changing water situation, watch the slideshow below:

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