Has the War on Water Already Begun?

by chauvin.m on October 7, 2016 - 5:04pm

It has been a growing concern on many Canadians’ minds that the day will arrive when other countries come to Canada to demand use of our plentiful fresh water. While this may seem overly dramatic, there is the possibility that it has already begun with the recent approval of a Wisconsin city to draw its drinking water from Lake Michigan.

The article “…Plan to tap into Lake Michigan called ‘wrong decision’” (Layson, 2016) states that the city Waukesha, Wisconsin was recently approved by a board of state governors to begin to draw their drinking water from Lake Michigan. They had to ask for special permission to do so because they lie just outside the Great Lakes Watershed. They plan to draw about 31 million litres of water from the lake for their city, while also treating the same amount of wastewater and returning it to the lake.  

The article itself does not discuss the uncertainty of this proposal. Meaning, whether there is risk involved because we know how the Great Lakes work and how drawing another 31 million litres will affect them or if there is only uncertainty, because we don’t know how the system will respond and can therefore not make clear predictions. This to me is a bit of an oversight by the author, as it seems as though there is some fear mongering happening that this approval will devastate the Great Lakes ecosystem. Discussing the uncertainty and risks involved could clear up a significant amount of confusion. 

The article further claims that the city made the decision to make this request because they have elevated levels of naturally occurring radium in their groundwater wells, which they have been mandated to solve by the court. However, I think Waukesha should have attempted to resolve this issue before they applied to draw water from Lake Michigan. There should be some form of a policy or regulatory instrument that stipulates that cities outside of the basin must exhaust all other options for their water sources before seeking use of the Great Lakes. This could be a clause that is worked into the Great Lakes Agreement’s provision for cities outside of the Basin.

The article discusses how this decision has made many people angry, including the mayor of Leamington, John Paterson. Paterson believes that Waukesha should not have been approved to draw their drinking water from Lake Michigan, claiming the decision will greatly impact the Great Lakes ecosystem by establishing the possibility for other places to draw their water from the Great Lakes, thereby draining them.

It appears to me that there is a significant disconnect between those who oppose the approval (including Paterson), and the American people in terms of who they believe should receive the benefits that the Great Lakes have to offer. This conflict of value, which is when two groups involved have different end goals for the problem, is evident because on the one hand, people within the basin want to keep the water for their own drinking water source as well as to water crops in places like Leamington. On the other hand, the governors who approved the proposal believe that this decision actually helps to preserve the natural resource and that our neighbours deserve to be assisted in times of need.

Overall, this article represents a complex issue that will only become more prevalent in the future. That is, do we attempt to preserve local ecosystems for the future or do we address people’s basic human rights now?

Layson, G. (2016, June 22). Wuakesha, Wis., plan to tap into Lake Michigan called ‘wrong decision’. CBC News Windsor.  Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/waukesha-water-  leamington-mayor-1.3646880






You captured my attention with your blog title, Has The War On Water Already Begun? I had not taken into consideration that were is a war for such resource, so I am intrigued to learn about who is involved. As you mentioned, the United States is tapping into the great lakes. This should be a grave concern for Canadians as this is our fresh water supply and much of our economy is dependent on export such commodity. I appreciate your background knowledge on Waukesha wells. I would question their water losses; the loss is possible do to their infrastructure or even degradation of the environment from various companies (like fracking). These are just assumptions that I am making. I would urge the city to find better sustainable techniques to preserve resources. Surely, the loss did not occur in one day. What do you think caused the loss? How could the loss have been prevented (if there is a possible prevention)? Do you think that governments were right in making these expectations. The issue I find with this is that if one city is taking water, then more cities from around the area are bound to want the same privilege. As a Canadian, I am concerned for the amount of water that is being taken from the great lakes. You had brought to my attention the various other factors that go along with this issue, such as ecosystem degradation and pollution. I am concerned that the rate of extraction may be too high for the Great Lakes to remain stable. I appreciate your post. This is an issue that should be taken with extreme caution.