Great Lakes water diversions could be more – Great Lakes now

And after?

The derivations were approved in New Berlin and Waukesha, WI, whose counties lie partially in the Great Lakes Basin, and for the Foxconn Technological group in Root, WI, which diverts up to 7 million gallons per day from Lake Michigan. Foxconn’s approval was criticized by environmental groups who argued that the diversion violated the terms of the pact because it was not for the purpose of public water supply.

Indeed, said Evans and other opponents of the diversion, the barriers to the diversion of Great Lakes water that were established in an eight-state compact 13 years ago are constantly being violated.

“On the one hand, it’s terrible, because I know that the climate will make the problem of drinking water even worse in the world. You can’t deny that, ”Evans said. “But where do you draw the line and who decides what happens?”

“You see [diversion proposals] crop up one at a time, ”added James Clift, deputy director of the Michigan Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. “We usually see them in Wisconsin because the basin line is closest to the lake itself. Part of that is the growth within the community and they have limited places to get water. Other times it’s commercial or residential growth in areas that were formally agricultural. ”

In all of these cases, communities are required to return all water that is not used to the Great Lakes. Clift is not that concerned.

“Plus these [diversion requests] are far from the lakes, the more unrealistic it is, ”says Clift. “You will never see the water from the Great Lakes flooding the Rocky Mountains. Anything in the Rocky Mountains, we’re safe.

But on this side of the Rockies, we have also been talking for a while about the communities around the Ogallala aquifer. Beneath the Great Plains and stretching from the southern end of South Dakota to the northwest corner of Texas, the Ogallala Aquifer is rapidly declining. Recoverable water has dropped 9 percent overall since the start of groundwater pumping, and the future does not look bright.

“I think the big trip [for Great Lakes water] in the next 50 years there will be the lowering of the Ogallala aquifer and the impact that will have on agricultural products and the food supply, ”says Dave Dempsey, Great Lakes policy expert and author of Great Lakes for Sale. “Transferring water from the Great Lakes to this distance is more economically viable.”

The Ogallala aquifer produces almost a fifth corn, wheat, cotton and cattle in the United States today.

In theory, it’s possible that these Great Plains regions could play a role in the Great Lakes at some point, according to Clift. But for that to happen, communities would have to change federal law and amend the pact before seeking diversion.

“This pressure could increase over time,” says Clift. “That’s why it’s important to start recognizing the limits of water and where we expect water to be in the future.”

While long-distance water diversions seem like a distant scenario, it’s not all guesswork. In Oregon, a company Actively plans to train water across the country in areas with low water supply. Whether that means it could possibly mean the Great Lakes is unclear, but it is evident that bulk water transport seems to be a more serious consideration.

The future of water diversions largely depends on the severity of climate change and what it will look like across the country, Dempsey said. Desalination plants increased in the Southwestern United States and around the world, but as prices for converting saltwater to freshwater have fallen, the process is expensive and comes with its own issues such as brine disposal.

There is also the possibility of mass migration to the Great Lakes. People can come to the basin, a place only experts say will be the least affected by climate change, and use water here instead of diverting it. But Dempsey says the two could also happen.

“The question for me is not whether the pact is going to change, but how long it is going to take,” Dempsey said. “It can take 10, 20 or 100 years. But a severe drought in the southwest will increase the pressure at the federal level and they will have to decide on the most economically viable solution.


Get more Great Lakes news now:

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Access to water: with the end of the moratoriums on shutdowns, old problems are coming back to the fore

Plastic debris enters the Great Lakes, our drinking water and our food

Chemical impact: microplastic pollution more complex than you think, new research finds


Featured Image: As the ground begins to thaw in the wake of winter, a local Michigander walks along the Lake Michigan coast. Michigan is the only state that touches four of the Great Lakes: Superior, Huron, Erie, and Michigan. (Photo credit: J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue)


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