For those of us from the Midwest, we take great pride in the Great Lakes. Not only do we use them for enjoyment and economical purposes, but it is where many people get their drinking water. Every county within the Great Lakes Basin is permitted to take water, water from these areas flows back into the lakes naturally. The Great Lakes Water Compact is a group made up of the eight states and two Canadian Providences that border the lakes. This group upholds the Compact and makes decisions as a singular unit. This Compact was signed into law in October 2008.
The City of Waukesha is located just outside the basin in Waukesha county Wisconsin. This is the first request for use of the Great Lakes’ water from a community outside the basin. Waukesha is facing a uranium problem in their wells and is under a public mandate to find a new safe source of water before 2018. With the Mississippi River too far way and their aquifer contaminated Waukesha turned to the Great Lakes as their only option.
Last summer, public meetings were held to gain general opinion and answer questions. Several environmental groups in Wisconsin have urged this request to be denied. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has to approve the plan first before it is sent to the other ten officials for their approval. This group of ten will decide as a whole; one vote against this request means it will not go through.
What does this mean for the rest of us? If the City of Waukesha is granted access to Lake Michigan’s water, what’s to stop other counties further from the basin to ask for Great Lakes’ water? Fresh water is becoming scarce and it is a problem that the rising generation will need to solve. Levels in the Great Lakes are already falling each year, allowing a larger population access to the water will make this problem worse.
My Midwestern pride is not what drives my vote against this request, but my foresight into the future and my passion to protect the environment. People are not the only creatures that rely on the Great Lakes; various numbers of fish, plants and mammals would not survive without this freshwater system. Economically, fishing, recreational and shipping boats would not exist without there physically being water.
Similar to today’s dependency on oil, the dependency of tomorrow will be for fresh water. We’re already seeing it as residence in West Virginia went a week without water in January after their water was contaminated keeping them from even bathing in it. What would you do without any running water in your county for a week? In the West, the Colorado River no longer reaches the Gulf of California. This year will be the first year that the amount of water entering Lake Mead will be reduced. Everyone, the wealthy and less fortunate, will need to cut down on water usage.
While the issue of water is taunting and there is a way to stay afloat. We can all take shorter showers and maybe shower less often (better for your skin anyway), turn off water when brushing your teeth, use rainwater to water plants inside and outside, to name a few. Fresh water is a luxury; in the United States we’re lucky that most of us take it for granted. The battle for water will continue in Waukesha but it’s a war that is just starting worldwide.