Sitting here between 6 quadrillion U.S. gallons of Great Lakes Water, I’m tuned into stories about it. I see a story about drought conditions in the Western United States from time to time. Much of the Southwestern United States and Montana-Idaho are currently under severe drought conditions. Since the summer of 2021, the drought conditions in the Southwest have lessened; however, more of the country is now suffering under drought.
Michigan author Dave Dempsey has updated and re-published his book Great Lakes for Sale. Dempsey is an expert in Great Lakes policy, and he echos our concerns about shifting political power to the western states and their openly expressed view that the Great Lakes are a resource to tap into and sell. With climate change and shifting policy, Dempsey urges a revisit of the Great Lakes Compact that protects the Great Lakes from the diversion outside our watershed.
The United Nations warns that about 1.8 billion people will be living under extreme drought and water stress conditions. In 2017 Cape Town, South Africa, narrowly avoided “Day Zero” when it was feared the municipal water supply would be shut off. Unfortunately, much of the United States is facing the same fate.
Can Great Lakes Water Be Taken Away?
A recent story by Fox News talk radio station KLIX in Idaho suggested they start “borrowing the Great Lakes” by pumping Lake Michigan to Idaho to relieve them of drought conditions. The story goes on to say,”
“Millions of thirsty western voters will have a lot of pull on policy. As the region grows, so does its power in the United States House of Representatives. By its design, the Senate is already favorable to western concerns. Lake Michigan may be coming to Idaho.”Idaho Drought Could be Solved by Borrowing the Great Lakes – KLIX 1310
This is not the first story nor the last about siphoning our region’s lakes. However, it’s the first time I’ve seen a threat made to take the water based on the political power of the western states. A chilling thought. I’m appalled by the general scarcity of understanding how fragile the Great Lakes are.
Great Lakes Water is a Vital Resource And Needs to Stay Here.
Shared with Canada and traversing more than 750 miles from West to East, these immense inland freshwater seas provide water for consumption, transportation, power, and recreation. The Great lake’s basin hosts 84% of North America’s freshwater. About 21% of the world’s supply of surface freshwater. 10% of the U.S. population, 30 million people, and more than 30% of the Canadian population depend on the Great Lakes for drinking water.
Economic Value of Great Lakes Water
The Great Lakes are also an economic resource. Great Lakes shipping accounts for 33,000 jobs and about $4 billion in direct revenue. The value of the content shipped across Great Lake waters is estimated at over $15 billion, with over 123,000 jobs depending on it.
Those who have studied this issue are pretty aware that that’s darn near impossible to suck any significant water from the Great Lakes. Economically such a project would cost in the 100’s of dollars more to maintain. The Great Lakes Compact, where both the United States and Canada are signatories, prevents water removal from the Great Lakes watershed. However, from time to time, the idea is still floated about.
That does not mean to say that the Great Lakes are wholly protected. Foreign companies such as Nestle pumps 400 gallons a minute out of the aquifers in the region. Then, they sell it back to us in plastic water bottles. Dempsey argues that the aquifer that Nestle has tapped into is equivalent to the size of Lake Huron and could be considered a sixth Great Lake.
The water levels on the lakes are such a substantial economic and recreational issue that I now give a monthly summary of the Great Lakes Water Levels from the Army Corps of Engineers – Detroit District.
Could the Great Lakes Be an Oasis for Water Refugees?
Soon, it’s entirely possible that the entire Great Lakes Region could become an oasis for a water-starved America. Suppose climate change results in larger areas of the United States being stricken by drought. One extreme drought forecast said the western states could be in this situation for hundreds of years. In that case, you could forecast an exodus of people and businesses moving in to seek our precious water and moderate climate.
Resources About Selling Great Lakes Water
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“Lake Michigan may be coming to Idaho.”
That’s what an Idaho radio commentator said in June 2021. Holding approximately 20% of the world’s surface freshwater, the Great Lakes are again a target for the drought-ridden West, facing climate change, massive fires, and shrinking water supplies. And in a potentially far more significant threat, Wall Street is creating markets that could lead to the trading of freshwaters as a commodity like corn or oil. As a result, the Great Lakes are in danger of becoming privately exploited on a large scale by those who have priorities other than stewardship.
In Great Lakes for Sale, Dave Dempsey offers surprising, even controversial, ideas on preventing the fulfillment of this nightmare scenario. They include an attack on water commercialization, curbing abuse of the Great Lakes Compact, and devising plans for limited sharing of the Great Lakes to forestall humanitarian disasters. But, if the Great Lakes are to remain significant, new thinking and action will be required.