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This winter’s weather is going to have an effect on water levels in the Great Lakes. We will not know how much until spring, but with minor snowfalls in the upper Great Lakes and no freeze-over of the lakes, the level will drop once again. And there was news recently of something else that could have a far-reaching impact on our watershed.
Back in 2005 the governors of all the Great Lakes states, the St. Lawrence Seaway states and two Canadian Provinces reached an accord to restrict the diversion of water to communities within the Great Lakes basin and to set limits on how much each was allowed to divert. This was intended to ensure the long-term quality of water and the environmental and ecological balance of the single largest source of fresh water on the planet. In 2008 President Bush and the Canadian Parliament signed the Great Lakes Compact into international law.
This month has seen the first challenge to this law. Waukesha, Wis., a community west of Milwaukee, has asked to divert Lake Michigan water to their town. Situated some 30 miles outside the Lake Basin, Waukesha is forbidden by the Compact from diverting the water. Certain provisions within the Compact allow for exceptions if communities have exhausted all other resources, but that does not appear to be the case here. Several independent studies have said that Waukesha can meet its demands with better management of its existing water supply. Waukesha’s demand for water has been decreasing since the late 1980s, and the town plans to divert water to several nearby communities that are not experiencing any water supply problems and have not requested any help.
This challenge does not sound like much, but it would set a precedent for future demands. We are urging the governors to reject this request and support the guidelines set in the 2008 Compact to protect our great resource.
As to where Evanston fits into the Lake Michigan basin, the basin line actually runs along Ridge Avenue but for practical reasons was extended to the Evanston City boundary on the west. The Chicago area, which includes Evanston, diverts almost 2 million gallons of water a day from Lake Michigan. We need to conserve and protect this resource. Until next time…keep a tight line.
Contact Dick at firstname.lastname@example.org.