A Natural Flow Of Water That Rund Through Land Death by 1000 Straws – The Importance of Preventing Diversion From the Great Lakes Basin

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Death by 1000 Straws – The Importance of Preventing Diversion From the Great Lakes Basin

Benjamin Franklin once observed, “The price of water will be known when the well is dry.” This historical gem has never had such a literal impact in America today, where residents are quickly discovering that the most essential of natural resources is not as bottomless as we thought. That’s bad news for the Great Lakes basin, which is surrounded by drier neighbors who want to quench their thirst with cool, abundant water from our shockingly fragile water supplies, ecosystems and natural wonders.

West of the valley, Minnesota farmers have fought for hundreds of years for milk and water rights to the St. Mary’s Rivers. If you look farther west, you’ll see thirsty farmers in southern Oregon wrestling with the federal government over rights to the Klamath River basin, as an endangered species threatens their water supply and livelihoods. Similar battles took place in the South, where federal government officials were forced to flee the depleted Colorado by regional farmers so that its water could be spread to the sprawling metropolises of Los Angeles and San Diego. In the arid desert of Tucson, Arizona, large sinkholes have erupted due to massive drops in the water table. To the southeast, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida have been suing each other over water rights in the Apalachicola River basin for decades, and it continues to dry up. Farther east, where the scarcity of water is less pronounced, the Ipswich River outside Boston occasionally runs dry; Overdrawing the groundwater that feeds Ipswich has robbed it of its integral base stream.

As the population in all these areas continues to grow, the water crisis will become more acute and the current water scarcity will be exacerbated by cycles of drought. “The United States is headed for a water scarcity crisis,” warns Robert Glennon, a law professor at the University of Arizona and author of Water Follies, an influential book describing the devastating effects of excessive groundwater withdrawal around the United States. “Our current water use patterns are unsustainable and environmental factors threaten to overwhelm water supplies due to increasing demand.”

It’s natural for residents of the Great Lakes Basin to wonder: We have all this water; They don’t have much, so when will the thirsty knock? Well, whether we realize it or not, many attempts have already been made and, in some cases, efforts have been made to deplete our precious lakes of their natural bounty in one of the most geologically stable locations on Earth.

Consider the infamous Ogalala Aquifer: an enormous underground aquifer that supplies virtually all of the water to the High Plains. Contrary to popular belief, the resource is not a vast, cavernous, underwater ocean, but water that has filled cracks and crevices in the arid Great Plains for thousands of years. Nature finds it difficult to extract even a small amount from this inexhaustible resource, which is used in large quantities today. A federal report in 1982 stated, “Continuing existing use patterns is expected to lead to depletion or near depletion of this single major source of water over large areas or the High Plains.”

Although the stability of the day was not sustainable, local farmers depended on their government officials to keep them afloat. In 1976, the Great Plains rallied the US Army Corps of Engineers to push through controversial legislation by requesting a $6 million study to explore the practicalities of transporting water from neighboring states to the region.

Naturally, the response of neighboring states to this study proposal (results very low) was nothing short of alarming, and caused the ire of the governors of the Great Lakes states, as one member, Minnesota, fell into the ‘neighboring’ category. ‘. State legislatures had long feared that Great Lakes water would be absorbed into the parched American Southwest, but the Ogallala aquifer states suddenly saw a more immediate threat. Not only was the demand high here; They were also close.

Although the study interpreted ‘adjacent’ in a relatively rational manner that did not allow diversion of Great Lakes water, the Great Lakes basin suffered from large parasitic drains that pumped millions of gallons of water through the region each day. The results of the study were important for two important reasons: they served as an ominous warning of future water shortages and more runs on the waters of the Great Lakes, and they demonstrated the fairness of transporting water from the basin to other parts of the country. . A study by University of Michigan professor Jonathan Bulkley researched the additional costs of transferring Lake Superior water to the Missouri River, where Lake Superior could theoretically connect to 2 of the Corps’ Ogallala diversion plans. The purpose of the study was to show how outrageous the price tag would be for transporting water from the Great Lakes basin.

The proposed 611-mile canal included in the proposal was capable of transporting 10,000 cubic feet of clean, crisp Lake Superior water per second from Lake Superior to Yankton, South Dakota. Adding to the cost, 18 pumping stations will be required to transport the water, as most of the water travels uphill. Add in an additional $7 million for the energy used just to operate these stations, and the project faces $27 billion (in 1982 dollars). The mass transport of water through the Great Lakes seemed more real than fiction.

Despite the hefty price tag placed on water transportation, residents of the Great Lakes Basin still demand action from the governor and legislature to prevent any future attempts to steal the basin’s water. In 1982, the Supreme Court ruled that these petitions were barred.

The case unfolded in a remote area of ​​rural Nebraska, but reverberated throughout the United States — particularly the Great Lakes Basin region. It asked the question: Can a state prevent the diversion of water beyond its borders? The Sporheis case began with a small Nebraska farmer who owned property along the Nebraska-Colorado border. Under state law, Sporhes was not allowed to carry pumped water from his Nebraska property to his Colorado side; He challenged the law as a violation of the Interstate Commerce Clause of the US Constitution. That summer, in July 1982, water was declared a commodity. As such, states were denied a monopoly on water supply and were prohibited from interfering with water in matters of interstate commerce. Spoorhes effectively destroyed any tactic used by the basin states to ban the diversion of water out of the basin.

So what can we do to prevent the redirection of water out of our fragile basins? The sad reality at this point is: not much. But this does not mean that the basin states did not take any action after the Supreme Court’s decision on Sporhes. In fact, one could argue that the move charged some sleepy governors and alerted them to a more aggressive approach.

Action began in January 1982, when governors from 8 Great Lakes basin states formed the “Great Lakes Governors’ Council.” The purpose of the assembly was to help organize regional responses to various Great Lakes issues, highlighting the threat of diversion. Later that year at a meeting on Mackinac Island, it was announced that Great Lakes waters would not be diverted without the approval of every Great Lakes governor, premier, and federal government in the United States and Canada. While lacking the force of law, the message sent a clear message that Great Lakes states have no interest in releasing their precious waters into their basins.

The Great Lakes are a valuable natural resource, as well as a defining feature of the geographic region. Just as Arizona has the Grand Canyon, picturesque sunsets to the west, and economic benefits associated with the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Great Lakes basins are blessed with water. It is important to remember that less than 1% of the volume of the basin enters the lakes every year, so it is impossible to draw endless water, and their drainage will be explained by the decrease in the lake level and the disappearance of streams and rivers. Over-exporting water has reduced small bodies of water (like the Ipswich catchment) to dusty reminders of our carelessness in water management, and eyes will always be fixed on the grandest and richest water supply of all: our beautiful, natural wonder in the Great Lakes.

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