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Great Lakes Article:

The Fate of the Great Lakes:
Sustaining or Draining the Sweetwater Seas?
Diversions
published February 1997
posted 10/28/2002
From Great Lakes United's "Fate of the Great Lakes"
http://www.glu.org

Proposals for diversion of water from the Great Lakes Basin periodically arise; they always generate great controversy. Headlines a decade apart show the heat that is generated: "Keep the plug in Great Lakes" (Grand Rapids Press, March 8, 1996), "Region’s governors must keep diversion to minimum" (Ann Arbor News, March 8, 1996), and "Feud grows over scheme to export water to U.S." (Toronto Star, January 7, 1986), "Grand Canal called ‘Frankenstein’" (Toronto Globe and Mail, February 11, 1986), "Don’t Endanger Lakes to Aid Thirsty Big Apple" (Buffalo News, September 14, 1985).

Impacts of Diversions

The primary impact of diversions out of the Basin is to permanently lower lake levels. Individually, a diversion may seem inconsequential because it is small, but cumulatively the impacts become dramatic. Also, each diversion creates a precedent that makes it harder to successfully argue against additional proposals for diversions.

Permanently lowered lake levels as a result of diversions would result in significant environmental, social and economic harms.

Environmental impacts

There are a number of environmental impacts from permanently lowered lake levels. Among them:

 

Water quality in the Great Lakes could be detrimentally affected. Within the diversion route itself, there may be increases in water quality due to an increased dilution of pollutants.1 However, water quality may be reduced where water levels are lowered. Lower lake levels increase the disturbance of contaminated sediments by ships and by storms. This results in the release of contaminants from the sediments, making them available to the food chain. The contaminants are, as a result, passed from fish to the birds, animals and humans who eat them.2

 

Wetlands are particularly sensitive to changes in water levels. Any loss of these wetlands affects the habitat of the fish and wildlife who live there. Fish spawning areas could be seriously affected. Loss of wetlands also mean the loss of the numerous beneficial functions of wetlands, which include groundwater recharge, shoreline erosion prevention, temporary floodwater storage, and water filtration by absorption of sediment, chemicals, and nutrients.3

 

Reduced Great Lakes outflow could lead to saltwater encroachment from the Atlantic Ocean up the St. Lawrence River. This could have dramatic impacts on the freshwater ecology as well as contaminating the drinking water supply for Montréal and other communities in Québec.4

Social and Economic Impacts

Social and economic impacts of permanently lowered lake levels include:

 

Native communities would be hit particularly hard by any deterioration in the quality of the Great Lakes ecosystem. Their culture and livelihoods centre on the quality of the environment that they live in.

 

Decreased lake levels would change beaches and shorelines, and would leave docks and shipping and boat accesses above the water line. This would decrease shorefront property values.5

 

Recreational activities, such as boating, fishing, and hunting, may also be negatively affected, which would hurt the tourism industry.

 

Water intakes for plants that treat water for domestic and industrial uses could be affected.6

 

Hydroelectric power production is proportional to the amount of water available to be pumped through the system. Any decreases in water quantity would adversely affect the amount of energy available. Steam-electric plants may also be affected by dramatic drops in the level of Great Lakes water.7

 

Commercial navigation would be negatively affected by decreases in water levels. The lower the water level, the less commercial freight carriers can transport because they need to reduce their weight to float higher in the water. Lower water levels would lead to increased demands for costly and environmentally hazardous dredging and an increased demand for disposal sites for contaminated dredgeate.

 

The negative effects of reduced water levels would create greater demands to construct costly water control structures such as dams to try to lessen water level reductions in certain areas.8 Acrimonious debates over water level controls would increase.

 

Conflicts between governments over water controls and exports would increase. Relations between Canada and the United States could be negatively affected.9

 

In 1981, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated that the annual cost of negative impacts on power generation and commercial navigation of a 24,000 mld (6,500 mgd) diversion would be $US45 million.10

Existing Diversions Into the
Great Lakes Basin

The Portage Canal Diversion

Built in the 1860s, the Portage Canal connects the Wisconsin River to the Fox River, which flows into Lake Michigan. As a result, the canal diverts water from the Mississippi River basin into the Great Lakes Basin. At times of high water levels, as much as 240 mld (64.6 mgd) of water is diverted through the canal.11 This canal is now used only for recreational purposes.

The Long Lac and Ogoki Diversions

The Long Lac and Ogoki diversions, completed in 1941 and 1943 respectively, divert water into Lake Superior that would normally flow into James Bay and from there into Hudson Bay.12

The Ogoki diversion moves water through Lake Nipigon and the Nipigon River into Lake Superior at a point 96 kilometres (60 miles) east of Thunder Bay. This water was diverted to support three hydroelectric plants on the Nipigon River.

The Long Lac diversion diverts water through Long Lake and the Aguasabon River into Lake Superior near Terrace Bay. The diversion provides water for the hydroelectric plant near Terrace Bay and to drive pulpwood down the river.

The combined average daily flow of these diversions is 13,468 mld (3,620 mgd). These diversions into the Great Lakes Basin are almost 75 percent larger than all current diversions out of the Great Lakes.

The International Joint Commission reported in 1985 that, although there were no significant basinwide environmental effects from these diversions, there have been important local environmental effects, particularly on fish spawning areas and habitat.13 Because of the IJC’s focus on U.S.-Canadian waters, it did not address the impacts of these diversions on the Cree people who live around James Bay, the watershed from which these waters are diverted into the Great Lakes.

Existing Diversions Out of the
Great Lakes Basin

The Forestport Feeder Diversion

The New York State Barge Canal, which has been in operation since the early 1800s, diverts a small amount of water to the Hudson River watershed. Between 72 and 433 mld (19.5 and 117 mgd) of the waters discharged from the canal into the Hudson River watershed originate in the Great Lakes watershed.14

The original function of this canal was for shipment of goods. Today it is mainly used for recreational purposes.

The Chicago Diversion

In 1848, the Illinois-Michigan Canal was opened to shipping traffic. This resulted in the diversion of 240 mld (64.6 mgd) of water from Lake Michigan at Chicago through the Chicago and Illinois Rivers to the Mississippi River.15

At that time Chicago’s sewage flushed into the slowly moving, almost stagnant Chicago River and thence into Lake Michigan—the source of Chicago’s drinking water. In 1885, 90,000 people died in Chicago from cholera as a result of this situation; this was over one-tenth of the city’s population.

Because of this disaster, the Drainage and Water Supply Commission and the Sanitary District of Chicago were formed. The commission built a new channel and control structures to reverse the flow of the Chicago and Calumet Rivers so that sewage from Chicago would flow through the Illinois River to the Mississippi. The canal was completed in 1900.

During the 1920s, the Chicago diversion was as high as 24,000 mld (6,463 mgd).16 In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court limited the diversion to 7,600 mld (2,068 mgd), the level it is supposed to be at today.

The Chicago diversion has three components. The first component, 62 percent of the diversion, provides the water supply for the 5.7 million residents of northeast Illinois.17 The second component is a direct diversion from Lake Michigan into the Illinois River and Canal system for safe navigation and to increase flow in order to improve water quality in the Chicago area. The third component, 20 percent of the allowed diversion, is stormwater runoff that would have flowed into the Chicago River and from there into Lake Michigan, but which now flows the opposite direction into the Mississippi watershed.

It is expected that by the year 2000 Chicago’s population will have increased by one million people. This is sure to create new pressures to increase the size of the Chicago diversion.18

The level of flows at this diversion has always been a controversial topic because it is the largest diversion out of the Great Lakes Basin and always threatens to increase. The current allocation of 7,600 mld (2,068 mgd) averaged over a forty-year period was established by a U.S. Supreme Court decree issued in 1967 and amended in 1980.19

In 1995, a dispute arose between Michigan and Illinois because approximately 740 mld (200 mgd) more water was being diverted from Lake Michigan through the Chicago diversion than allowed by the court decree. Illinois argued that a "paper change rather than a physical change" in the diversion had occurred.20 The state said new, more accurate velocity flow meters were being used to measure the diversion and that canal locks maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were leaking. Michigan argued that Illinois "can’t pretend that one number is another."21

The federal government and the eight Great Lakes states took this dispute to mediation. Illinois and Michigan requested that the Army Corps of Engineers be granted authority under the Water Resources Development Act to proceed with necessary repairs to eliminate leakage through the locks.22

In October 1996, the concerned parties came to an agreement in which Illinois agreed to reduce the outtake of water from Lake Michigan to the amount set in the 1967 and 1980 court decree. In return the eight Great Lakes states agreed not to take legal action over the withdrawal violations that had already occurred.23

The Pleasant Prairie Diversion

The village of Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, straddles the Great Lakes and Mississippi Basins. Before 1990, Pleasant Prairie relied on groundwater for its water supply. In 1982, when two of the village’s wells were found to be contaminated with radium at levels four times higher than federal standards, the state notified the village that it would have to correct the radium problem.24

Although there were a number of options available to the village, including a cleanup of the radium contamination, the village decided to bring Lake Michigan water to one of the wells through a diversion that would discharge into the Mississippi River basin. According to the village’s officials, "this was by far the least expensive, the fastest, and the most practical [option]."25

In December 1989, the state gave approval for the diversion of 12 mld (3.2 mgd) of water to a well in Pleasant Prairie serving four thousand users in three subdivisions, a mobile home park and a factory.

Because of concerns raised by the province of Ontario, several of the Great Lakes states and citizens’ groups led by Great Lakes United, the state of Wisconsin termed the diversion a "temporary" one. The agreement between the village and the state requires Pleasant Prairie to build a pipeline to return effluent from that section of the village to Lake Michigan by 2010.*

Since the diversion began in 1990, development in the area served by the well has increased substantially. Village planners have approved several new developments, including 500- and 156-lot subdivisions.

* Strangely, there are two versions of the compliance agreement between the state and Pleasant Prairie. One, which is signed, does not include the requirement to return the water by 2010. The unsigned agreement contains the requirement to return the water.


Existing Inter-Basin Diversions of Great Lakes Waters

Out of the Great Lakes Basin

1
Chicago, Illinois, diversion including Indiana’s Calumet River system, since 1800s, 7,600 million litres per day (2,068 million gallons per day).

2
Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, diversion, since 1990, up to 12 mld (3.2 mgd).

3
Forestport Feeder diversion to New York Barge Canal, since 1800s, 72–433 mld (19–117 mgd). Diverts Lake Ontario headwaters stream in the Adirondack Mountains into the Hudon River basin part of the canal.

Into the Great Lakes Basin

4
Ogoki diversion, Ontario, and

5
Long Lac diversion, Ontario, both since 1940s.
These two diversions total 13,468 mld (3,620 mgd).

6
Portage Canal, Wisconsin, diversion, since 1800s, 240 mld (65 mgd). Diverts the Mississippi Basin’s Wisconsin River into the Great Lakes Basin’s Fox River.


Proposed Diversions

Over the years numerous proposals for major diversions have been promoted.26 Some of the more grandiose of these that have not come to fruition include:

 

A plan by North American Water and Power Alliance and the Mexico–United States Hydroelectric Commission to drain Great Lakes water into the Mississippi River and ultimately to Mexico (1964–68).

 

A plan to build a slurry pipe using water to transport coal from Lake Superior to Wyoming (1981).

 

A project to pipe Great Lakes water to the High Plains states and the Southwest (1984).

 

A project to blast a four-hundred-mile-long paved canal from Lake Superior to the Missouri River in South Dakota (1983).

 

Legislation to blast a canal from Lake Erie to the Ohio River (1986–91).

 

A federally funded plan to punch a hole in the bottom of Lake Michigan to drain water through bedrock layers for use in southern Illinois (1987).

Great Recycling and Northern Development (Grand) Canal Project

This $100 billion project has been called the "darling of the engineering industry." First proposed in 1959, this enterprise continues to be on the drawing board and periodically rises to a higher profile.

The Grand Canal project involves building a dyke across James Bay, turning the southern part of this salt water body into a fresh water lake. This water would then be diverted to the Great Lakes, where it would be sent on to the U.S. Midwest or to Lake Diefenbacker in Saskatchewan and then on to the U.S. South, Southwest, and perhaps Mexico.27

According to Tom Kierans, the developer of this project and its chief promoter, the prime benefits of this diversion would be that Great Lakes water levels would be stabilized and water-short areas of the Canadian and U.S. Midwest would have a secure water supply.28

Those who oppose this project fear disastrous effects from the reversal of water flows on the James Bay ecosystem and on the First Nations peoples who reside in the area.29 The First Nations peoples believe that the project would "destroy the James Bay fisheries, threaten migratory bird populations and jeopardize general water quality."30

Although such a large scheme may seem unlikely to occur, it should not be dismissed as a pipedream. Although GRANDCo, the company formed to coordinate this project, is in a "state of suspension," Kierans is still actively promoting the idea.31

Some observers believe that large-scale engineering projects such as the Grand Canal were foreseen in the U.S.-Canada-Mexico free trade discussions; before his appointment as Canada’s negotiator for the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement, Simon Reisman was a director of GRANDCo Ltd.32 It has been suggested, for example, that the Rafferty and Alameda dams in Alberta can only be understood as a part of a larger Grand Canal scheme.33

Rather than building the complete project at once, the more likely scenario would be the construction of small parts of the project one at a time.

New York City

During a drought in the mid-1980s, New York City officials eyed Lakes Erie and Ontario as potential sources of fresh water. The floating of the idea immediately led to vehement reactions. The Buffalo News wrote an editorial entitled "Don’t Endanger Lakes To Aid Thirsty Big Apple" (September 14, 1985). The proposal was quickly dropped.

This was not the first time that such an idea was presented and dropped. In 1964, the "North American Waters—A Master Plan" proposed to pipe vast quantities of water from Lake Ontario to New York City.34 Each summer that New York City experiences a drought ideas for diverting water from the Great Lakes resurface.

Lowell, Indiana

Lowell, Indiana, is five miles outside of the Great Lakes watershed. The community’s groundwater had fluoride levels exceeding U.S. federal water quality standards; in 1987 the federal government issued Lowell an order to comply with federal standards by 1989.35

Lowell responded by seeking to divert Lake Michigan water through the Gary-Hobart Water Company at the rate of 4 mld (1.2 mgd).36

Québec, Ontario and Michigan formally objected to the diversion. Great Lakes United coordinated citizens’ groups opposed to the project. Finally, Michigan used its veto under the Federal Water Resources Development Act of 1986 to stop the project.

Mississippi River

In the summer of 1988, a severe drought caused the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers to fall to record lows.37 This caused navigational problems in the Mississippi and created serious problems for farmers trying to grow crops in the U.S. Midwest.38 This led to calls by the state of Illinois and several U.S. senators for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to triple the flow of the Chicago diversion for one hundred days and possibly longer.39 This proposal raised considerable public alarm in the Great Lakes Basin.

After studying the situation, the Army Corps of Engineers concluded that the increased diversion would not make a "significant difference either in the navigability of the [river] channel or in the need for continued dredging of the river crossing as shoaling occur[ed]."40 The proposal was dropped.

The precedent for increasing the Chicago diversion because of low water levels in the Mississippi was set in 1956.41 A major drought from 1952 to 1956 resulted in low flows on the Mississippi River. As a result, in 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a permit to increase the flow through the Chicago diversion for seventy-six days.

Changes in Mississippi River water levels are likely to create recurring calls in the future for either short- or long-term increases in diversions from the Great Lakes.

Kenosha, Wisconsin

Between 1991 and 1992, the city of Kenosha built a water line from Lake Michigan to supply water to a newly annexed area slated for development. Instead of returning the water to the Great Lakes, Kenosha hooked up to Pleasant Prairie’s waste treatment system.42 This meant that the water was diverted to the Mississippi watershed through the newly built Kenosha diversion.

Investigations by Great Lakes United and the Lake Michigan Federation revealed this illegal connection and diversion. The groups’ lobbying of Wisconsin’s governor resulted in Kenosha being forced to disconnect from Pleasant Prairie’s system and return their water to the Great Lakes Basin.43

Crandon Mine, Wisconsin

Crandon Mining Company, owned by Exxon and Rio Algom, proposes to develop an underground hardrock metallic sulfide mine near Crandon, Wisconsin, in the Wolf River Basin, which is in the Great Lakes Basin. The company wants to mine 55 million tons of ore, extracting primarily copper and zinc and some lead, silver and gold.

The operation of this mine would result in the diversion of water from the Great Lakes Basin. To keep the mine from being flooded by groundwater from the surrounding aquifer, Crandon Mining Company would have to continuously pump water out of the mine twenty-four hours a day for more than thirty years.

The proposed mine would be located at the headwaters of the Wolf River. This pristine waterway is a state Outstanding Resource Water and a protected National Wild and Scenic River. Crandon Mining Company proposes to pump out the withdrawn groundwater through a thirty-eight-mile-long pipeline to the Wisconsin River to avoid water treatment costs necessary to return the water to the Lake Michigan watershed.

Water loss at the headwaters additionally threatens area lakes, streams and wetland and is a diversion of Lake Michigan waters into the Mississippi River watershed. The water loss from the Great Lakes Basin from this proposal is estimated to be approximately 3.7 mld (1 mgd).44

As of February 1997, this proposal was still under consideration by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The proposal is opposed by the Mole Lake Reservation, a large number of local organizations and local governments along both the Wolf and Wisconsin Rivers.

Akron, Ohio*

In early 1996, Akron, Ohio, proposed to divert 13 to 19 mld (3.4 to 5 mgd) of water each day from the Great Lakes Basin. The water would go to unincorporated suburbs beyond the city’s limits just over the border of the Great Lakes Basin. While admitting that this is officially a diversion from the Great Lakes Basin, Akron officials say that the diversion will not have negative effects on the Great Lakes because as much water will be returned to the Great Lakes as is withdrawn. This will be achieved through a combination of discharges from the city’s sewage treatment plant and water diverted from the Ohio River watershed through the Ohio Canal.45

By promising "no net loss" of water from the Great Lakes Basin, Akron hopes to avoid the controversy usually associated with diversions of water from the Great Lakes. Nevertheless, environmental groups are opposed to the proposal for two main reasons. The "no net loss" concept does not address water quality issues. Water returned after use usually is degraded in quality. Also, the proposal is a precedent-setting end run that numerous other municipalities just beyond the edge of the Great Lakes Basin would use to try to justify diversions from the Great Lakes.

The decision on the Akron diversion proposal will be made after it is reviewed by the other Great Lakes states and provinces under the U.S. Water Resources Development Act and the Great Lakes Charter.

* Since publication of this document, in spring 1998, the eight Great Lakes governors approved this diversion proposal. In order to obtain Michigan's approval, Ohio acceded to its demands that Ohio to assume responsibility for the diversion and assure that the returned water was not polluted.

Potential for Requests for Diversions to Areas Adjacent to the Great Lakes Basin

In 1993, Great Lakes United staff member Bruce Kershner and intern Carl Bolster studied the likelihood that communities just outside of the Great Lakes Basin would seek to divert Great Lakes water for public drinking water and navigational purposes.* 46

The study concluded that the areas with the highest potential to raise demands to divert water from the Great Lakes are Kenosha-Pleasant Prairie (Wisconsin), Lowell-Gary-Hobart (Indiana), Waukesha-New Berlin-Milwaukee (Wisconsin), Akron-Cleveland (Ohio), Chicago (Illinois) and New York City. Recent diversion requests are proving the accuracy of this study.

* This study did not include Michigan and Ontario because water withdrawals here would be unlikely to result in diversion of waters out of the Great Lakes Basin.

Diversions of Water Within the
Great Lakes Basin

In several places around the Great Lakes, water is diverted from one place to the other, bypassing waterways or lakes in between the withdrawal and discharge points. For example, the city of Detroit withdraws its drinking water from Lake Huron and discharges contaminated effluent from its sewage treatment plant into the Detroit River. This robs the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair of part of their normal flow.

Similarly, the city of London obtains its water supply from a point on Lake Huron over 50 kilometres (30 miles) away and discharges its sewage treatment plant effluent down the Thames River to Lake St. Clair. It thus diverts water past the St. Clair River.

Such diversions within the Great Lakes Basin affect water flows in certain sections of the Great Lakes system and, as a result, harm wetlands and fish, bird and wildlife habitat.

For the past several years, the Ontario government and several municipalities in southern Ontario have been considering proposals by private companies to build a $500-million pipeline to divert 190 to 229 mld (50 to 60 mgd) of water from Georgian Bay on Lake Huron to provide water to York, Peel, Halton, Wellington and Waterloo Regions.48 This intrabasin transfer would bypass much of Lake Huron, all of the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers, and, depending on the municipality served, Lake Erie and the Niagara River.

According to a document prepared by TransCanada Pipelines, the company that originally proposed building the pipeline, "the principle objective for the proposed system is to replace existing groundwater supplies in communities where it is found to be chronically lacking from a quality, quantity or long term reliability perspective."49

Citizens’ groups have major concerns about the ecological disruptions that would occur at both ends of the pipeline and along the major part of the Great Lakes that would be bypassed by such a diversion. They believe that it would be more cost effective to remediate contaminated groundwater and practice water conservation than to build the pipeline. They also believe that the pipeline would encourage growth beyond the natural carrying capacity of the local watersheds and would lead to the destruction of wetlands, which are crucial to the recharge of groundwater supplies.50

York Region, just north of Toronto, has most actively pursued this proposal, after awarding a tender to provide future water supplies to a consortium of Consumers Gas and British Northwest. In 1996, they came out with a proposal to draw 655 mld (177 mgd) of water from Georgian Bay and discharge treated sewage into Lake Ontario. Several citizens groups, including the Georgian Bay Association, the Safe Sewage Committee, the Canadian Environmental Law Association and Great Lakes United, objected to the proposal on environmental grounds. In December 1996, York Regional Council dropped the proposal to divert water from Georgian Bay, primarily for economic reasons.

The Thirst of the Rest of the Continent

Groundwater is being mined at a rapid rate in several major parts of North America. The Worldwatch Institute points out serious depletion of groundwater in the High Plains of the United States (the Ogallala Aquifer), California, the southwestern United States, Mexico City and the Valley of Mexico.51

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation, which was set up under NAFTA, observed that "in 1995, the lack of water in northern Mexico killed crops and cattle, while fish and other aquatic life died from rising salt levels in rivers."52 The CEC concluded that this situation is likely to worsen. These problems led Mexico to ask the United States for alternative water supplies; the United States refused the request.

As water sources throughout North America are depleted, the grand schemes that have thus far been set aside may well become more viable and the need ever more compelling. Generally the estimate of impacts on water levels across the Great Lakes from a 24,000 mld (6,500 mgd)* diversion anywhere in the Great Lakes is a decrease of 0.15 metres (half a foot).54 A 24,000 mld diversion would be small in comparison with the thirst that these major areas of the United States and Mexico may experience.

* A flow this size would cover a football field with four inches of water every second.53


Groundwater Depletion in North America, circa 1990

Region/Aquifer

Estimates of Depletion

High Plains Aquifer System, United States

Aquifer underlies nearly 20% of U.S. irrigated land. Depletion 12 billion cubic metres (bcm) per year, 325 bcm to date—15 times annual flow of the Colorado River. More than 2/3 occurred in the Texas High Plains—irrigated area dropped 26%, 1979-89.

California

Groundwater overdraft averages 1.6 bcm per year, 15% of the state's annual net groundwater use. 2/3 occurs in the Central Valley, the U.S. vegetable belt.

Southwestern United States

Water tables have dropped more than 120 metres (393 feet) east of Phoenix, Arizona. Projections for Albuquerque, New Mexico, show a further drop of 20 metres (65 feet) by 2020 if withdrawals continue at current levels.

Mexico City and Valley of Mexico

Pumping exceeds natural recharge by 50% to 80%. This has led to falling water tables, aquifer compaction, land subsidence, and damage to surface structures.


Historical Lessons of Great Lakes Diversions

The existing diversions in the Great Lakes and the numerous proposals that have not come to fruition provide us with some important lessons that we must learn from for the future.

Each diversion is of basinwide concern.

Because the Great Lakes system is a hydrologically integrated system, changes in levels in one part of the Basin affect other parts of the Basin. For example, the Chicago diversion not only lowers Lake Michigan levels (by 6 centimetres or 2.5 inches); it also lowers the waters of Lake Erie (by 4.5 centimetres or 1.75 inches) and Lake Ontario (by 3 centimetres or 1.25 inches).55 In addition, even very small diversions have basinwide implications, making it more difficult to deny future applications for similar types of diversions in other parts of the Basin.

Requests for transfers adjacent to the Great Lakes Basin will increase.

Recent examples show that the demands from communities just beyond the border of the Great Lakes Basin will increase for two main reasons: (i) contamination of groundwater leads communities to look to the Great Lakes as a cheaper way of getting water than cleaning up and protecting their groundwater supplies; and (ii) the desire of communities to grow in terms of both residential subdivisions and industrial and commercial enterprises leads them to look to the Great Lakes as a new water source.

Demands for Great Lakes water from distant communities will increase.

As history has shown, when regions of any other part of the continent experience a drought or draw down their water reserves, their eyes turn enviously to the luxury of waters in the Great Lakes. This situation will not stop. Indeed, these calls will become ever more urgent.

The thirst of the people beyond the Basin’s borders for water will never end and, as a result, diversions will never be a dead issue in the Great Lakes Basin. Therefore, we must have clear policies on how we will deal with diversions.

The adequacy of present efforts to control Great Lakes diversions will be discussed in the next two chapters.

 

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