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Great Lakes Article:

Water Wars
Water levels rise, but for how long?
By Robert Montgomery
BASS Times
Published Nov. 2004

CHICAGO, Ill. Heavy rains last fall and again this spring have helped the Great lakes rebound from near-record lows, improving conditions for fish, wildlife and recreational users.

Overall, the lakes are now up a foot from the 45-year low recorded last year, reversing a six-year, 3-foot drop that left shallow cover and some marinas high and dry. Additionally, the low water hampered transportation for a system that sustains more commercial shipping than the Panama and Suez canals combined. And the drought lessened available supply for the 45 million people who depend on the Great Lakes for their water.

Yet, the future does not look especially bright for the Great Lakes. Following several mild winters that increased evaporation rates and reduced snow pack, levels rose appreciably with a precipitation in May that scientists call a "once-in-a-century" deluge.

"That's what's worrisome," said hydrologist Cynthia Sellinger of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

"What made the lakes rise this year was we had an extremely wet fall and a wet May. What usually gives us a good rise in the lake is ice cover to prevent evaporation in winter, and then a nice snow pack melting in the spring thaw."

Ice covering the lakes now seems to have turned into a rare event, added Joel Brammeier of the Lake Michigan Federation.

"In the long term, no one's quite sure what the implications for global climate change are for the Great Lakes," he said, suggesting that change prompted by global warming just might be now at work on the world's largest freshwater system.

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