Sunday, November 25, 2007

Water World

Keeping our water here

Legislation calls for approval of compact on Great Lakes basin.

Tribune Staff Writer

We've got a lot of water around here. The Great Lakes account for 18 percent of the world's supply of fresh water. That makes folks who are short of water -- parts of the West and, this year, parts of the South -- start looking longingly this way.

That led governors of eight states and the premiers of two Canadian provinces to agree to a Great Lakes Compact several years ago. They were the governors of Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York and the premiers of Ontario and Quebec. The compact calls for water from the Great Lakes basin to stay in the Great Lakes basin.

Why it is needed

"Maintaining lake levels is important for economic reasons, shipping and transportation, use of harbors, beaches and public access areas," said John Goss, executive director of the Indiana Wildlife Federation. He said that if Great Lakes water levels are reduced substantially, the temperature of the water will go up, causing environmental problems.

Keeping water here

Anybody from outside the Great Lakes basin already has to get permission from the governors of all eight states and premiers of both provinces to take water out of the Great Lakes basin. Once the compact is approved by the legislatures of all the states, it will go to Congress for its approval. After states approve their plans to implement the compact, people inside the basin will have go to their local state to get permission to use Great Lakes basin water. Each state will have its own implementation plan.

It calls for those inside the basin to have to apply for a permit if they want to take more than 5 million gallons of water a day out of the Great Lakes themselves, 1 million gallons a day out of the ground or out of other lakes and rivers, or 100,000 gallons a day out of some lakes and streams, including the St. Joseph River and its tributaries.

That's right--the good people of the upper Midwest and southeastern Canada band together and say, "You'll get our water when you pry it out of our cold dead fingers!" This is actually a pretty serious deal. I certainly realize that there are areas that are truly feeling the drought and are in dire straits. However, sending them water from the Great Lakes is not solving the problem. It will create numerous problems in our own area. For example, the nuclear plant where Ken works uses water from Lake Michigan for cooling, with the water returning right back to the lake. Drop the water level, raise the water temp, and you've got a multi-million dollar problem. The poor usage and mismanagement of resources in the Atlanta area have led to their current water woes. Georgia needs to implement some strict guidelines about water usage, and needs to enforce them.

They are learning what my parents taught me when I was a kid: our natural resources are limited, so don't squander them. That includes water. If you want a perfectly green lawn, especially in the south or west, it takes a lot of water. I think it's time we got away from the manicured lawns and started harmonizing with nature a little more. Use grasses and plants native to your area--they thrive under the conditions. Find the balance. And leave our water alone.


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