water siphoning at risk
By Diane Kubiak
Post-Tribune (NW Indiana)
Published August 23rd, 2004
Michigan City — If what’s in that ubiquitous plastic
water bottle is a commodity, the Great Lakes may need
more protection than current international trade agreements
That’s one impetus for “Annex 2001,” a legislative guideline
being developed by the Council of Great Lakes Governors
and others for protecting the Great Lakes and its watershed
from depletion, exploitation and further damage. The council
is seeing public comment on its current draft document
through Oct. 18.
The threats are many, immediate and not all local, explained
Cheryl Mendoza of the Lake Michigan Federation, who met
with a roundtable of area environmentalists at the Save
the Dunes Council headquarters here on Barker Road last
Imagine the outrage and concern, she said, when an Asian
tanker began mining water out of Lake Superior in full
view of Canadians. Imagine the shock and fear that followed,
she added, when the tankers argued that free-trade agreements
allowed them to treat water as any other commodity. If
you can sell it, you can’t interfere with its free trade.
While the eight Great Lakes governors and two Canadian
premiers have agreed the lakes need to be protected, their
vehicle for protecting it, the Great Lakes Charter Annex
Agreement in 2001, “Annex 2001” for short, might need
more teeth, maintains Mendoza. The lakes, she said, hold
20 percent of the world’s available fresh surface water
and 95 percent of the fresh water in the United States.
The agreement, on line at www.speakongreatlakes.org,
is designed to meet the goals of the Canadian-American
agreement: To prevent or minimize water loss through the
implementation of conservation measures which are environmentally
sound and economically feasible; to prevent adverse individual
or cumulative actions which impact the quantity or quality
of the water or natural resources dependent on the Great
Lakes Basin and to require users to improve the waters
or the water dependent resources in the basin.
The waters in the Great Lakes are glacial deposits from
the last ice age. Only 1 percent of what is taken is now
returned, said Mendoza.
“It’s a world-class resource,” she said. “It deserves
She said the draft, although a major step, is weak on
several points and may not, if implemented as is, achieve
the goals of Annex 2001. The best time to change it is
now, she said, before it goes to state assemblies and
the U.S. Congress.
“Our fight now is to try and get improvement back in,”
she said, saying the draft needs to be more clear on who
has to do how much and why. Right now the line is at 5
million gallons a day.
Environmentalist Herb Read said that was too lenient
and does not deal with the cumulative effects of smaller
operations. He said Asia should look at cleaning up its
own water systems before it mines water from the Great
Lee Botts, a local environmentalist, said the mere anticipation
of the agreement has already had an impact. “It has forced
the states, including Indiana, to do a much better job
of accounting for water use.” She said Illinois had the
best data at a recent conference she attended in Toronto.
“Don’t forget Indianapolis doesn’t think we border the
Great Lakes,” said Jack Harris of Valparaiso, a member
of the Northwest Indiana Steelheaders. He noted that President
Bush, campaigning in Traverse City, Mich., indicated his
support by telling people there the Great Lakes were not
Botts said the initial statements from Sen. John Kerry’s
presidential campaign, seen by some as negative, were
quickly modified with a next-morning news release.
“There’s been a lot more communication with his campaign
since then,” she said.
Mendez said the draft currently discriminates between
“in-basin” and “out-of-basin” users and that such discriminatory
language may put the whole document at odds with free