The current issue surrounding the diversion of water supplies remains controversial. There are both environmental and economic impacts whenever water from a source is diverted to other locations. Lake Superior is recognized as a beautiful and vast body of water. There is also tremendous economic value from the lake to the local region. However, water from the lake is currently being utilized by other communities remote from its location. The water is being diverted to other communities, and possibly even to foreign markets. These communities suffer from water supply difficulties. This process needs to be halted before there is permanent ecological and economic damage to the Lake Superior region.
It is incorrect to believe that the Great Lakes can supply the water needs of the world. The Great Lakes is actually a nonrenewable source of water. The source of the Great Lakes is a number of aquifers that have developed over large periods of time. An aquifer is a layer of water-permeable rock that is found underground. It is commonly referred to as “groundwater.” This aquifer does not replenish easily. The Lakes are renewed only one percent annually as a result of precipitation. Therefore, one must recognize that the Great Lakes are not a renewable source of water. Their water supply, like many water supplies, is finite (“Great Lakes: water use and diversion,” n.d.).
Many people worldwide look to the Great Lakes to solve their water problems. The Great Lakes area ranges across nearly 94,000 square miles. They are the largest surface freshwater system on the planet. As a water source, they contain 95% of the available fresh surface water on the North American continent. Worldwide, they contain one-third of all available fresh surface water. Because of this, many individuals and politicians believe that they have a limitless supply of water. They also believe that the Lakes represent a solution to water shortages in the country, specifically in the Southwest.
The Lakes do not have a continuous supply of water. It is also important for other areas to find ways to reduce water demand. Since the Lakes cannot supply water forever, it is important to recognize that a long-term solution is needed for the problem of water shortages in America and across the world. There are also significant economic effects associated with a decreased level of water in the Lakes. Tourism drops annually with the drop in the water level. Since tourism accounts for a significant amount of the local economy, this could have tremendous adverse effects on the local communities. Furthermore, the level of the Lakes’ waters also effect shipping across the water system. “For every inch of ship’s draft clearance lost to low water in the shallower channels, such as the St. Marys River between Lake Superior and Michigan-Huron, a carrier must reduce his cargo by as much as 270 tons (245 metric tons) or risk the danger of running aground,” (Mitchell, n.d.). This could result in a loss of several billion dollars annually for the shipping industry.
Much of Canada’s population lives in the region of the Great Lakes. Fisheries are a significant source of employment and food in the area. If water diversion from these lakes occurs, these fisheries may fail as a result. States in the area may also lose an important source of hydroelectric power, creating an energy shortage in these areas. There are also environmental effects to consider. Certain species may not survive a permanent drop in the water levels of Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes (Favro, n.d.).
For these reasons, the Great Lakes cannot offer the entire world its water supplies. The Great Lakes are a non-renewable resource. Lowering the levels of Lake Superior and the other lakes creates significant economic and environmental effects for the area. The world needs to find ways to reduce water use, not ways to take water from other regions.
- Favro, T. (n.d.). U.S. and Canadian mayors work together to protect Great Lakes. Retrieved Aug 1, 2013, from: http://www.citymayors.com/environment/us-great-lakes.html
- “Great Lakes: water use and diversion.” (n.d.). Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council. Retrieved Aug 1, 2013, from: http://www.watershedcouncil.org
- Mitchell, JG. (n.d.) Down the drain: the incredible shrinking Great Lakes. National Geographic. Retrieved Aug 1, 2013, from: http://environment.nationalgeographic.com