Tag Archive for 'Great Lakes'

Where Did the Water Go? Busting 5 Myths About Water Levels on the Great Lakes

Photo retrieved from: www.nationalgeographic.com

“The extreme low levels earlier this year left many asking, “Where did the water go?” The answer is that it simply evaporated. The surface of the Great Lakes acts like an enormous evaporating pan under the right conditions. As explained in a previous post, the lack of ice cover in 2011-12 and record-breaking warm temperatures created ideal conditions for high rates of evaporation on Lakes Superior, Huron, and Michigan. These lakes had already been fluctuating below average levels for 15 years. A severe drought prevented the lakes from replenishing themselves, and water levels reached record lows.

Another reason the water levels on Lakes Michigan and Huron are lower than normal is the past dredging and erosion in the St. Clair River that resulted in a 10- to 15-inch (25- to 38-centimeter) lowering of water levels. These historic losses were never offset with mitigation measures. The only dredging that occurs today is to keep rivers at authorized depths for navigation. Recent studies show this is not the cause of low water.

Even though this is well documented by the agencies that have been monitoring water levels, going back to 1918, various theories about possible causes abound, especially online. Some of these theories and misleading facts get repeated so often, they become mythic. As the lakes begin their seasonal decline, a little myth-busting is in order.”

Read more: National Geographic

 

Zombie Water Projects (Just when you thought they were really dead…)

Retrieved from: www.ducks.org

“But not all zombies are fictional, and some are potentially really dangerous – at least to our pocketbooks and environment. These include zombie water projects: large, costly water projects that are proposed, killed for one reason or another, and are brought back to life, even if the project itself is socially, politically, economically, and environmentally unjustified.

Here are four kinds of zombie water projects that have been repeatedly beaten down for a variety of reasons but that keep rearing their ugly heads. Keep those chainsaws lubed and fueled:

1. Water transfers from the Great Lakes or the Mississippi River or Alaska and Canada to the arid southwestern U.S.

These are perennial favorites: people look at the vast amount of water in the Great Lakes, or flowing down the Mississippi River, or flowing north to the Arctic Ocean and think, gee, what could make more sense than to take that water and move it to where we really need it, like California or Arizona or Las Vegas. After all, we’ve been moving water around since the beautifully designed Roman aqueducts, and even earlier. But most of these mega-projects are zombies – killed off years ago, only to linger, undead.”

Read more: Circle of Blue

 

Fracking Issue Heating Up Here

Photo retrieved from: www.canadians.org

“The Council of Canadians, a prestigious public advocacy group that has 12 chapters and tens of thousands of members in and around the Great Lakes, and has served as adviser to the United Nations, sent a Sept. 22 letter to Water Board commissioners Ted Janese, Thomas Vitello, Nicholas Marchellos, Peter Sinclair and Michael McNally, which stated the following:

“The treatment of fracking fluids in Niagara Falls’ wastewater treatment system would put the Niagara River as well as the Great Lakes at risk as it is one integrated watershed. The Great Lakes, specifically, and water, in general, are part of the global commons (a shared entity) and are a public trust. … The Great Lakes hold nearly 20 percent of the world’s freshwater and 95 percent of North America’s freshwater. They provide drinking water to 40 million people in surrounding areas. Last year the U.N. passed two resolutions recognizing water as a human right and this proposal to treat fracking fluids threatens people’s human right to safe and clean drinking water.”

The letter goes on to criticize NFWB Executive Director Paul Drof, who shrugs his shoulders and passes the buck to the state Department of Environmental Conservation when it comes to setting limits on the amounts of the 750 fracking additives — dozens of which are known carcinogens — and radioactive substances flushed up from deep rock layers that may be blended into our drinking water supply.”

Read more: Niagara Falls Reporter

 

Protecting Our Water Supply

Photo retrieved from: www.allamericanblog.com

“As reported in The Macomb Daily, the Republican-led legislature in Ohio wants to buck the efforts of other states and provinces to protect Great Lakes waters with its plans to increase withdrawals from the lakes, the rivers that feed them and the groundwater in the watershed area. Its rationale is that it will be able to offer help to those industries that require large amounts of water and enable them to bring new jobs to the area.

No one must have told these folks that there is a limit to the water than can be taken out of the Lakes — I think it is around 1 percent — without causing harm. This assumes using the water within the watershed and allowing it to drain back into the system.

Michigan taught Ohio a lesson in the Toledo War of 1835, and it can do it again. After all, we are upstream of them. Maybe we’ll just take out all the water we want and attract all those steel mills to Detroit.

If that doesn’t work, we have another option. Thanks to Republicans in the House of Representatives — including our own Candice Miller — who passed H.R. 2018, the EPA’s ability to deal with water quality will be weakened in favor of giving more control to the states. Pretty soon, we won’t have to deal with as many of those job-killing pollution standards. Farmers in Florida won’t have to worry about fertilizer runoff, mine owners in West Virginia will be able to blow the tops off mountains and dump the detritus into local streams, and we can send all the waste we want down to Ohio instead of spending money on proper disposal.

Read more: Daily Tribune

Water shaped Michigan’s past: Now it’s a key to state’s future

Photo retrieved from: www.freep.com

“Michigan has more water than Saudi Arabia has oil.

In an ever-thirstier world, it’s a priceless resource. But can all that blue be turned into new green? Is water the asset that can return Michigan to national, even global, economic leadership?

“The Great Lakes are our economic ace in the hole,” said Tim Eder, executive director of the nonprofit Great Lakes Commission, a coalition of U.S. and Canadian interests. “The water is going to provide the lubricant to make our economy hum.”

In the past year or two, all sorts of efforts have begun in Michigan to create a blue economy — purifying water, recycling it, measuring how clean or dirty it is and providing water-based expertise to the world. The market for water technology is estimated at $500 billion a year and growing.

“We’re sitting on liquid gold,” said Dave Egner, director of the New Economy Initiative, a coalition of nonprofit foundations hoping to steer Michigan toward a new economic future.

But there’s threat as well as opportunity in Michigan’s water. Put bluntly: Others want to take it.”

Read more: Detroit Free Press

Prozac Killing E. coli in the Great Lakes

Presque Isle Lighthouse stands on the shore of Lake Erie in Presque Isle State Park, Pennsylvania. Retrieved from: www.nationalgeographic.com

“Scientists in Erie, Pennsylvania, have found that minute concentrations of fluoxetine, the active ingredient in Prozac, are killing off microbial populations in the Great Lakes.

Traces of antidepressants such as Prozac have been found in both drinking and recreational water supplies throughout the world, in quantities experts say are too dilute to affect humans but which have been found to damage the reproductive systems of mollusks and may even affect the brains of animals like fish.

Killing off bacteria might seem like a good thing. “Your immediate thought is, ‘well, that’s good, because they’re not supposed to be there anyways,” said Mercyhurst College microbiologist Steve Mauro, whose team found fluoxetine in low doses in water near Lake Erie’s beaches. “But what about all the other bacteria that are supposed to be there and part of that ecosystem?”

Treating clean lake water with similar strength doses killed off E. coli and enterococcus bacteria, both of which can cause serious infections in humans.

The fluoxetine found in Lake Erie is at very low levels—about one nanogram per liter of water, Mauro said. “It doesn’t appear to be at a level that would be harmful to humans,” or invertebrates, for that matter, though Mauro suspects that fluoxetine combined with other chemicals could be having a cumulative effect on the lake’s ecosystem.

But what’s puzzling is where the drug is coming from. Fluoxetine is thought to enter waterways after it passes through the body and is excreted in urine. And pill users who dispose of unused pills down the sink could be adding to the problem. Wastewater treatment plants generally don’t filter out the chemical.”

Read more: National Geographic

Great Lakes as Sacred Places

Photo retrieved from: www.huffingtonpost.com

“North America’s Great Lakes, which have suffered plenty from commerce, were also once sacred. The Ojibwe believed that Lake Superior, with the largest surface area of any lake in the world, was ruled by Misshepezhieu, the Great Lynx. That deity was both benevolent and malicious, fitting qualities for a body of water that can change from tranquil to furious in a moment. Those moods were a fact of life – still are – for anyone who lives in the region.

The Great Lakes are like five beautiful and charismatic sisters: willful, tempestuous, frequently charming, often dangerous, and ultimately unfathomable. As the main trade route to the interior of the continent and surrounded by lands flush with resources, the Great Lakes were central in transforming the U.S. and Canada into industrial and economic giants. Yet the lakes remain among the least appreciated of our major geographic features. No longer am I surprised to meet people who don’t know that the lakes are too vast to see across or that they contain most of the surface freshwater in North America. I am surprised, however, by the people who assume that all that water is there to be ransacked.

Maybe the lakes are too great for their own good. If they were contained entirely within Ontario or Michigan, they would be more ferociously defended. Instead they overlap two nations and eight states, and are constantly snarled in legislative complexities that make them vulnerable. And because they contain such an enormous volume of water — nearly a fifth of all that’s available on the surface of the earth – and are spread across a wide swath of North America many assume that they’re inexhaustible. With that much water, the thinking goes, there should be plenty for everyone.”

Read more: Huffington Post

 

Officials Warn Of Great Lakes Water Shortage

“A federal analysis this week warned that the Great Lakes region could experience water shortages in some locations in coming years because of climate shifts or surging demand.

“The five-year study by the U.S. Geological Survey, released on Monday, describes the Great Lakes as an aquatic treasure trove. The lakes themselves have 6 quadrillion gallons — enough to spread a foot-deep layer across North America, South America and Africa — and the volume of groundwater surpasses that of Lake Huron.

“Yet groundwater levels have plummeted about 1,000 feet in the Chicago and Milwaukee metro areas because of pumping for municipal supplies and could drop an additional 100 feet over the next three decades if withdrawal rates jump as expected, the report says. The Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, its deep wells contaminated with radium, is seeking permission to tap Lake Michigan under a compact signed by the region’s eight states in 2005.

“The report doesn’t identify other potential problem areas, but lead author Howard W. Reeves said local officials should become familiar with data about supplies close to home and use it to guide long-range planning for development and water use.”

Read more: CBS Chicago

Global Warming Burning Lakes?

Photo retrieved from: www.nationalgeographic.com

“A loss of oxygen and the deterioration of food chains have transformed Africa’s Lake Tanganyika and Russia’s Lake Baikal. Scientists have pointed to global warming, and now a new study finds that a similar fate may be in store for many of the world’s freshwater bodies.

In the last 25 years, the world’s largest lakes have been steadily warming, confirms the new study, some by as much as 4°F (2.2°C). In some cases that is seven times faster than air temperatures have risen over the same period.

It’s an important find, scientists say, because lake ecology can be extremely temperature-sensitive. “A small change in temperature can have quite a dramatic effect,”

says study author Simon Hook, a geologist and remote sensing expert atNASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

In many lakes, warming waters could kill native fish, clog pristine waters with algae, and expose fish and other aquatic species to more toxic pollution.”

Read more: National Geographic

Tourism vs. Mining: Which Will the Great Lakes Region Choose for its Economic Future?

Photo retrieved from: www.alternet.org

“Mining proponents respond that new technologies make mining environmentally safe. “Producing the raw materials needed for today’s society, creating jobs and protecting the environment are not mutually exclusive. Mining is necessary, and can be done responsibly, safely, and for the benefit of people,” Skaer said.

Scientist Ann Maest takes issue with the line of reasoning that new technology takes the harm out of sulfide ore mining. “It is not a panacea,” she says. Residents may not know that a mine had been operated in an area or there was environmental damage after the company has reclaimed it.  But that is only on the surface. “They disrupt the hydrologic regime underground and the groundwater flows differently than it did before. When you raise the pH, you create a different set of problems chemically and water quality-wise. It is better, but they are not going to be able to create a situation where there are no adverse effects to the groundwater and water quality,” she said.”

Read more: AlterNet