Great Lakes Environmental Directory Great Lakes Great Lakes environment Great Lakes grants exotic species water pollution water export drilling environment Great Lakes pollution Superior Michigan Huron Erie Ontario ecology Great Lakes issues wetlands Great Lakes wetlands Great Lakes Great Lakes environment Great Lakes watershed water quality exotic species Great Lakes grants water pollution water export oil gas drilling environment environmental Great Lakes pollution Lake Superior Lake Michigan Lake Huron Lake Erie Lake Ontario Great Lakes ecology Great Lakes issues Great Lakes wetlands Great Lakes Resources Great Lakes activist Great Lakes environmental organizations Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat air pollution alien species threatened rare endangered species ecological Great Lakes information Success Stories Great Lakes Directory Home/News Great Lakes Calendar Great Lakes jobs/volunteering Search Great Lakes Organizations Take Action! Contact Us Resources/Links Great Lakes Issues Great Lakes News Article About Us Networking Services

Great Lakes Article:

Use is an issue in Great Lakes, top fresh water source in U.S.
By Mike Danahey
The Courier News

In the West and Southwest there is debate over who has use of water from the Colorado and Rio Grande rivers. Water from the Ogallala aquifer in the nation's heartland is consumed faster than nature can replenish it. Droughts on the East Coast last year meant extensive water rationing.

With population growth and shifts and greater demand from consumers and industries, water supplies across the country are under stress. And although the Great Lakes contain more than 90 percent of the fresh water in the United States and about 20 percent of the world's fresh water supply, there is concern about their use as a resource, too.

According to the Great Lakes Commission/International Joint Commission, users in Illinois consume about 100 million gallons of Great Lakes water a day, or 4 percent of the water taken out of the lakes by surrounding states and provinces each day. Ontario, Canada, consumes 675 million gallons a day, while Michigan takes 525 million gallons per day from the lakes. About 29 percent of the water is used for irrigation, 28 percent by public water supplies and 24 percent by industries.

More actually is used, but these are the amounts that don't make it back into the water system, explained Gary Heinlein, a reporter for The Detroit News. He worked with other staff for two months on a series, "Water Pressures: Protecting the Great Lakes," which ran earlier this month.

Lakes hold lots of water

While the 2.5 billion gallons a day draining from the lakes might seem like a huge amount, it pales next to the sheer volume the lakes hold. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that to be 6 quadrillion gallons of water, or enough to put the whole country 10 feet under water the height of a regulation basketball hoop.

Although there have been attempts to export Great Lakes water to other places, right now there isn't a lot of out of pressure on them to do so, said Heinlein.

But that doesn't mean the lakes aren't facing perils. Potential trouble stems from there being no binding agreement between the states and Canadian provinces that border the Great Lakes on how to manage the resource. There is the Great Lakes Charter Annex 2001, an agreement to work out guidelines, and work is being done to give the document teeth. But right now it offers little protection for the Great Lakes, Heinlein said.

According to USA Today, "the lack of uniform regulations in the region has led to wide disparities in how much water is drawn from the Great Lakes and how it can be used."

The paper states that Milwaukee makes $72 million a year by selling Lake Michigan water to its suburbs. The Indiana-American Water Co. has a 3-mile-wide tunnel it uses to pump 60 million gallons of water a day to 250,000 users in northwest Indiana, but it pays nothing for taking the water out of Lake Michigan. Indiana requires no permit to draw water from the lake; Minnesota requires a permit of anyone taking more than 10,000 gallons, USA Today states.

Levels lowest since the '60s

Though attributed to evaporation, weather cycles and patterns, at the same time, the water levels in the lakes are at the lowest point since the 1960s. According to The Standard of St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada, in May, Lakes Michigan and Huron were down the most, each 13.6 inches below their long-term averages. Some scientists are predicting further, drastic recession, meaning continued problems for resorts, recreational boaters and freighters, not to mention the ecosystem.

Heinlein noted, too, that population centers along the Great Lakes such as Toronto are seeing booms, putting more burden on them as a water source.

"A lot of people think the Great Lakes are an endless resource," said Cheryl Mendoza, project manager for the Chicago-based Lake Michigan Federation. "Really, they are a gift from the glaciers and for the most part are nonrenewable."

Yet, she said, the region can meets its water needs if it is wise in how in conserves.

This information is posted for nonprofit educational purposes, in accordance with U.S. Code Title 17, Chapter 1,Sec. 107 copyright laws.
For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for
purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use," you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Great Lakes environmental information

Return to Great Lakes Directory Home/ Site Map