Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

November 10, 2006

Great Lakes could be region of troubled waters, writer warns

Filed under: Aral Sea,Water Wars — nemo @ 12:34 pm

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has an interview with author Peter Annin about his timely book The Great Lakes Water Warsabout the looming issues surrounding water diversion from the Great Lakes:

The title is trying to convince people to read a book that they otherwise might not read, and the water diversion issue in the Great Lakes basin is the spotted owl issue of this region – very polarizing, very bitter, and for the people who have their opinions about this issue, they are very strongly held.

Q. Do you see Wisconsin as a future battleground?

A. There is no doubt southeast Wisconsin is the front lines in the Great Lakes water wars because so many communities there are sitting on either contaminated or declining – or both – groundwater resources. This is where the next forays into this water war are going to take place. We’ve seen it with Waukesha. We’ve seen it with New Berlin, and we saw it in 1989 with Pleasant Prairie.

Q. Are the Great Lakes seriously jeopardized by thirsty communities outside their basin?

A. For those who say the Great Lakes are too big to be damaged, do what I did: travel to the Aral Sea (in central Asia). Once the fourth-largest inland body of water in the world, in my lifetime, four decades, it has been decimated and has now lost 75% of its surface area and 90% of its volume. It shows, indeed, large lakes can be drained by man. They aren’t invincible.

Q. What’s it like standing on the bottom of a great lake?

A. Trying to describe what the Aral Sea is like is one of the most frustrating exercises of my journalism career. When you drive for five hours on the old seabed in a Russian jeep from the old shoreline to the new shoreline, how do you quantify that to somebody who has never been there? How do you describe the magnitude of the problem when you stop and get out and look around in all directions of the compass and you can’t see water anywhere and you know it was once 45 to 50 feet deep over your head?
Peter Annin has made Chapter 8 available online here. The book is available from Amazon.

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