Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Drought on the East

My vote for the hottest environmental issue this month is Drought. Affordable and clean water is one of the many reasons why Rochester, NY is a great place to live--as you already know. But, the droughts going on in the South and West should be of particular concern to Rochestarians who have a quarter of the world's fresh water next door. Because the effects are more dramatic in other places and because the effects here of the drought do not seem to impact most of us here in the Northeast immediately this story just doesn’t get its do. It should.

In my opinion, it is inevitable that major amounts of waters will be diverted from the Great Lakes in the future—called ‘diversion’. I believe so for several reasons: 1. The droughts in the West and South are so damaging that peoples in these area will soon be in great need of fresh water. 2. Because of continual population growth in these areas, there will be no political will to curb that growth and so force high water prices and draconian water saving measures that the populace in these places will be clamoring for new water sources. 3. The water in the Great Lakes already has a sort of distribution system for taking this water by the network of existing water systems throughout the country (mostly in and around major metropolitan areas) making it possible for the South and West to get connected a lot easier than most people think.

I know my theory seems a bit far fetched for most, but looking far ahead (as we environmentalists tend towards) Diversion is going to be a serious environmental issue because the Great Lakes water levels are already dropping because of some dredging projects and Global Warming. Studies on how climate change will impact on the Great Lakes suggest that there will be a drop the source for new waters for the lakes—glaciers—because there won’t be as much water in yearly melts, and also because as the winters are warming, there will be less ice cover on the lakes, which means more evaporation.

Of course, there will be mad dashes to regulate and legislate against far-off communities diverting waters from the Great Lakes, because it is such tight system (mostly the water stays in the system, what gets out through the St. Lawrence Seaway gets back by glacier melt, about one percent), but I don’ t think that will be enough. Fresh drinking water is fundamental to human life and we got lots of it. Our distance fear of the profound disturbance caused by diverting large amounts of water from this enclosed system will pale against the immediate and desperate need for fresh water in places that do not have it. My points are: Diversion of waters from the Great Lakes should be on our radar because Great Lake water levels, our weather, and our ecosystem could be compromised. Secondly, I have no idea how we in the Northeast can say no to other large portions of our country who will be in desperate need of fresh water.

Here are some reports about this issue that back up my concern: NCDC: Drought spread through US in Sept. - Yahoo! News The Great Lakes, which together make up about 20 percent of the world's fresh surface water, have been in decline since the late 1990s. Lakes Huron and Michigan were about 2 feet below their long-term average levels, while Lake Superior was about 20 inches off, Lake Ontario 7 inches below and Lake Erie a few inches down. Yahoo! News - Top Stories Also the drought issue brings up the continual threat of diversion : States eye lakes water management :: News :: Post-Tribune Great Lakes water levels are near historic lows. And with droughts in the Southeast and Southwest, the pressure to turn to the Great Lakes as a source of fresh water is growing. So is the need for states to pass the Great Lakes Compact to prevent diversions. (Oct. 26, 07) Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana

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