Welcome to the New Year 2011. It is a good time to talk about the lakes and rivers we fish, how they are being abused and what we can do to help save them for future generations.
Water is one of the most essential elements to our existence. Lake Michigan is so large and so visible every day that it is taken for granted. The Great Lakes hold approximately 21 percent of the world’s fresh water, and are the source for all of Evanston’s fresh water needs. The Illinois portion of the Lake Michigan basin is unique in that all the water removed is not returned to the lake; it flows downstream to the Gulf of Mexico. In the past half-century local water usage has increased immeasurably as the population grows and more buildings are built. The lakes naturally only replenish about 2 percent of their volume each year. That can no longer keep pace with usage, so the lakes are gradually shrinking in volume. In the past few years the Lake Michigan/Lake Huron basin had reached the lowest levels that had ever been recorded. For a graphic idea of this, just look at pictures of our Evanston beaches in the 80s and early 90s. They were half the size they are today because lake levels were higher.
Global climate change is having an impact on our lake levels as well. Until recently, a large ice cover on Lake Michigan every winter helped reduce the millions of gallons of water we lose to evaporation every day. A lot of winters these past decades have been quite a bit warmer, with very light snowfall totals. Both of these scenarios have allowed evaporation to continue all winter with no protection and little precipitation, lowering the lake level even further. These winters with smaller snowfall totals in upper Michigan and northern Wisconsin have reduced spring runoff from snow melt, giving back less water to the lakes.
Let’s make a New Year’s resolution to be more conscious of our water usage. It is environmentally sound and will help keep our Great Lake really great for generations to come. Keep a tight line.
Visit Dick Peach at firstname.lastname@example.org