By James Rowen Special to Published Nov 07, 2009 at 12:13 PM

I was really pleased to see Mayor Tom Barrett and the M7 Water Council to at least think aloud and in unison about a way to bring business to Milwaukee: discount the price of water to businesses willing to locate within the city.

It's a far better use of Lake Michigan water than gearing up the difficult political, legal and financial machinery needed to divert it out of the Great Lakes basin -- say, to Waukesha -- believing that some economic benefits will trickle back to Milwaukee along with a few bucks thrown Milwaukee's way from the buyer.

All the Lakefront communities -- from Kenosha to Green Bay -- are located within the Great Lakes basin, and have water treatment and wastewater facilities already up and running, with some, like Milwaukee, having excess capacity in the built infrastructure.

With proper water conservation and other best management practices, the Lakefront communities can maximize their access to and use of water.

Furthermore, the discounting plan underscores the nature of the Lakefront area and watershed as a region that is more real and naturally-defined that the silly, seven-county Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission -- a construct made by drawing lines on a map that aggregated counties 50 years ago in a structure that functions poorly, and disadvantages the Lakefront communities at the expense of suburbs and rural areas.

Why is Milwaukee in a planning region with Walworth County?

Or with Waukesha County, which does not want to participate with Milwaukee city and county on transit, housing, and job growth?

Water is the key to Milwaukee and the Lakefront communities' definition, identity and future.

Give Barrett and the M7 Water Council credit for thinking big.

Encourage them to keep at it.

James Rowen Special to
James Rowen is a Milwaukee writer and consultant who blogs at He worked as a reporter and assistant metro editor at The Milwaukee Journal and Journal Sentinel, and held several positions with Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist, including Chief of Staff. Rowen is on the board of the Institute for One Wisconsin Now, and receives funding from The Brico Fund; neither organization has control over his writing and blogging.