Water, Water, Not Everywhere. But, Here.

Beltane                                                                                       Waxing Garlic Moon

Spent most of the day at an event focused on implementation of the Great Lakes Water Compact, an unusual and comprehensive agreement among the 8 Great Lakes States and two Canadian provinces.  It was held at the REI in Bloomington, the one with the very tall climbing wall.  It also has nicely landscaped grounds with native plants and water falls.-

American political processes have wheels within wheels attached to gears that trip levers and start small balls rolling down tipping boards which fall and in falling create a cascade of effects near and far.

The Great Lakes Water Compact Council consists of the 8 states signatory to the agreement.  There is a larger group that contains Ontario and Quebec.  This outfit has the responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the accord reached in 2008.   On a budget of roughly $100,000.  Which dries up this year.  Who funds this group?  The 8 states.  Will the 8 states raise money from themselves to move this body forward?  Remains to be seen.

This meeting today, which included DNR folks, environmental groups and legislative types wanted to push the Compact forward in spite of its very real limitations, both political and fiscal.

It has the stated aim of stopping diversion of water out of the Great Lakes, period, and to regulate water diversions within the watershed.  It began when folks concerned about the Great Lakes discovered that an Ontario agency had approved a permit for a Chinese company to ship millions of gallons of Lake Huron water back to China for bottled water.  The furor over this (the diversion, not the fact that it was China.) caused Ontario to back down and an odd coalition of businesses, chamber of commerces, enivronmentalists and politicians to sit down and hammer out a way to ensure that such diversions never proceed and to create a framework for monitoring and regulating Great Lakes Water.

This all makes sense to me and I’m glad to see all the various political, environmental and regulatory folks working earnestly to make it happen.

This circling of the Great Lakes wagons does beg the question of how a fresh water rich region will fare in a world gone thirsty.  The compact sets up a governing body to handle matters within the total Great Lakes watershed and the smaller watersheds that constitute it, but they do nothing to prevent Arizona, Nevada, China, Saudi Arabia or any other water poor region from looking at us with envy and perhaps a little hostility.

You might say, what about what we tell all 5 year olds?  “You just have to learn to share.”

Here’s the problem.  The average recharge rate for the Great Lakes is 1% a year.  What that means is that any diversion over 1% will actually draw down the volume of waters in the lake.

In case you think this is a far away problem consider the poor Aral Sea.  In 1989 it was full, but supporting multiple farming operations, most of them growing cotton.  In 2008 it had barren lake bottom with ships sitting of what had been lake bed.

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