Some people see the Great Lakes as huge reservoirs — pools oflife-giving liquid that should be pumped to places in need of water. But Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Mike VanBuren believes themajestic ”Inland Seas” ought to stay right where they are:
Some people see the Great Lakes as huge reservoirs — pools of life-giving liquid that
should be pumped to places in need of water. But Great Lakes Radio Consortium
commentator Mike VanBuren believes the majestic “Inland Seas” ought to stay right
where they are.
When I was a boy, my grandmother sent me a postcard from Arizona. It was covered
with pictures of desert plants and animals. There were cacti, jackrabbits and rattlesnakes
— each well adapted to the harsh climate.
My grandmother was well adapted, too — having lived in Phoenix for many years. But
her needs were different from the coyotes and roadrunners that populated the
countryside. They’d learned to get by on less. She was dependent on generous supplies
of clean, fresh water.
The Southwest, you see, is a thirsty place. The sun is bright and hot. And the land is dry.
It’s enough to send a Gila monster out for a tall glass of cold sarsparilla. And it has made
many misguided public servants cast greedy eyes on the Great Lakes.
The reasons are simple. Water is critical to life — and to many social and economic
activities. In some areas — such as Arizona — water is in short supply. The Great Lakes
Basin contains about twenty percent of the freshwater on the surface of the earth. Why
not just redistribute it so everyone has enough?
Some profiteers — and politicians with dry tongues — like this idea. But I don’t.
Water is already being pumped in and out of the Great Lakes — on a relatively small
scale. Fortunately, no major diversions are currently planned. But some public officials
and environmental leaders say it’s just a matter of time.
The population is expanding in many parts of the country where water is scarce. Recent
census results show that some of the fastest-growing states — Arizona, California,
Nevada and Texas — are also among those most in need of water. The census also shows
that those states will gain seats in Congress, while the Great Lakes region loses seats.
That means that it could be harder to win a congressional vote to restrict the sale of Great
Siphoning lake water makes perfect sense to those who don’t know — or care — about
ecosystems. But scientists say such activity could harm plants and animals. It could
upset the balance of nature, lower groundwater levels, reduce water quality, and even
change the climate.
And what happens if you have to shut the spigot off for some reason? Who’s gonna tell
the folks in Sun City that the well is dry?
My home state of Michigan is almost entirely within the Great Lakes basin. We have
everything to lose and very little to gain if water is taken. Our economy is tied to
shipping, fishing, agriculture, recreation and tourism. These activities depend on the
Great Lakes being healthy and vibrant. That’s why we all need to conserve water and
develop strong policies to prevent raids on the resource.
Now, I love Arizona. And I’m pleased my grandmother could live there. But if she
wanted to drink from the Great Lakes, she probably should have moved back to