Water Wars, part 2

As bizarre as it sounds, people in Michigan and Illinois are worried that their neighbors want to take their water…

Growing thirst threatens a Great Lakes water war:
Lawmakers battle to protect the region’s key resource

Jim Lynch / The Detroit News

As drought-plagued states cast a jealous eye toward Michigan’s abundant supply of freshwater, local lawmakers are scrambling — unsuccessfully so far — to fend off efforts to siphon from the Great Lakes.
A regional effort to enact legislation giving the eight Great Lakes states more control over water diversion is languishing in several states, with only two — Minnesota and Illinois — giving full approval so far.
Committees in both the Michigan House and Senate have passed versions of the compact, and officials hope a unified version will be on the governor’s desk before the end of January.
But delays in legal protection for the Great Lakes states could prove costly, especially as the waterways sink to all-time lows set in 1965.
Among the recent threats:
• In October, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson of New Mexico created an uproar when he described Wisconsin as being “awash in water” and called for a “national water policy.” He later softened his remarks, but the comment triggered a national debate that cast more scrutiny on the Great Lakes.
• A Georgia congressman has proposed a national water commission that would put the federal government in charge of Great Lakes water, an idea that Michigan lawmakers oppose.
• Experts say the 2010 U.S. census recalculation could shift political power out of some of the Midwest states such as Michigan to water-hungry states in the South and West, making it harder for the Great Lakes to keep its water here.
It’s a scenario that worries some Michigan residents.
“I don’t think we ought to be sending our water to anybody,” said Paul Sapp, a 72-year-old Mecosta resident who said he’s seen local water levels drop due to withdrawals from the Muskegon River for a bottled water plant. “They all moved down (to the Southeast and Southwest) to stay warm. If they’re thirsty, they can move back.” (…)

Of course water wars are old news; as Twain famously said, “whiskey’s for drinkin’, water’s for fightin’ over.” But these are signs of new tensions over water from population growth and increasing tendency to drought. It raises questions about future trends and consequences of changing precipitation patterns from climate change, opportunities to conserve water, and need for regional water management policy in an increasingly constrained Water World.

UPDATE: From Science Progress, a little more detail on the story:

(…)The Great Lakes contain 18 percent of the planet’s fresh water, but with several lakes already below their long-term averages, natural resource policy makers in the region are eager to protect the water before proposals that would grant control to the Federal government gain traction. One such proposal from Rep. John Linder (R-GA) would create a national water commission. Concern that the 2010 census count may reduce the congressional delegation from lake states and increase the number of representatives in states experiencing drought conditions adds urgency to those pushing the Compact.(…)


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