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The issue of water diversions is a very complex topic, and there is so much that we couldn’t fit into “LSProject: The Century of Water” that we really wanted to. Here are a few factoids from Peter Annin and Dave Naftzger that didn’t make it in:
-The Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal is one of the most prominent diversions from the Great Lakes. The Chicago River was reversed in 1900, sending 2.1 billion gallons of water every day down into the Gulf of Mexico through the city of Chicago. As a result, water levels on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron were lowered by two inches.
-Since the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact was adopted, Wisconsin has emerged as the front line in the Great Lakes water diversion debate. There are a number of communities in the Milwaukee metropolitan area that sit right on the watershed rim. A suburb of Milwaukee called New Berlin was the first community to apply for a Great Lakes water diversion under the straddling community exception clause in the Compact, and they were approved. They can now divert water outside the basin, but they have to treat the water to Clean Water Act standards, as well as ensure that it returns to the basin. They also had to have a cutting-edge conservation program and prove that their diversion would not have any adverse environmental impacts (other criteria that need to be met under the Compact). Another suburb of Milwaukee, Waukesha, is located in a county that straddles the basin line, and they recently applied for a diversion under the straddling county exception clause of the Compact. The difference in clauses requires that Waukesha’s application needs to be approved by all eight Great Lakes governors. They have not yet been approved, so we will probably be hearing more about the Waukesha diversion in 2013.
-Lake Superiors water levels are actually regulated by two entities: the International Joint Commission and the International Lake Superior Board of Control. The Lake Superior Board of Control meets regularly to discuss how much water should be released from the lake, and the minutes from those meetings can be found online.
-Every five years, when the incremental water use has reached 50 million gallons a day, or at the request of any one of the Great Lakes states, the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact undergoes a cumulative impact assessment. This is a way to look at all the water that is being used across the region and what impact it’s having on the lakes. The potential outcomes of these assessments are changes to the decision-making standards or other parts of the Compact. This exercise will be conducted for the first time in 2013, and will form the basis for how these assessments will be done into the future.
-The federal government recently released a report that, for the first time, looks at shipping water from the Missouri River to the Colorado River basin. The report comes from the Bureau of Reclamation and is called the Colorado River Basin Water Supply & Demand Study. It can be viewed online.
-Water has actually been diverted in to Lake Superior. There are two diversions, both in Canada near Lake Nipigon, that send water in to the Lake. These diversions occurred in the 1930s and 1940s to increase hydropower generation at Sault Sainte Marie, and even all the way down to Niagara Falls. As a result, the water levels in Lake Superior are actually artificially higher by about four or five inches.