When United Nations officials cast the dire warning that freshwater
shortage would effect two-thirds of the world's population by 2025,
people in the Great Lakes Region began looking over their shoulders.
The idea that powerful forces could set their sights on tapping ...
When United Nations officials cast the dire warning that freshwater shortage would effect two-thirds of the world's population by 2025, people in the Great Lakes Region began looking over their shoulders. The idea that powerful forces could set their sights on tapping into the world's largest freshwater supply was, simply put, frightening.
Four years ago, politicians, scientists, and business leaders from the eight-state region decided it was time to put their heads together and come up with a plan for protecting the Great Lakes from diversions beyond the region.
What they came up with is the Great Lakes Compact, which cleared it's final legislative hurdle today after approval by all eight statehouses. Now that the U.S. House has signed off on the measure -- which sailed through the Senate in August -- it'll make its way to President Bush, who has signaled he'll sign it into law.
Until the end, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) joined some environmentalists in opposing the agreement, which he sees as too weak to thwart off future legal challenges aimed at draining the lake. From the Tribune article on the bill's passage:
Stupak said Congress spent little time examining the compact and warned that courts might declare the waters an economic commodity, opening the way for shipments to thirsty U.S. states or foreign countries.
"I do not know how any member in good conscience could vote to approve legislation that may unintentionally open the Great Lakes water to diversions," Stupak said.
As we noted in an earlier post, environmental lawyer Jim Olson has expressed similar concerns. He has argued that higher conservation standards within the Great Lakes states should have been worked into the legislation, particularly considering that water levels are already receding.
That reality has prompted regional planners from the Chicago metropolitan area to form the Southern Lake Michigan Water Supply Consortium, which is charged with developing a sustainable water management plan in a region that's become over reliant on Lake Michigan.
Members of the consortium maintain that imposing summer watering bans and creating stricter town-by-town usage guidelines won't conserve enough water to make up for the region's sprawl. In as few as 20 years, demand for Lake Michigan water could outpace supply, the Metropolitan Planning Council's Scott Goldstein told the Daily Southtown. "We simply don't have enough water to keep digging wells and not understand where that water is coming from."