Thursday, May 22, 2008

Great Lakes Water Compact

Earlier this month Wisconsin passed the Great Lakes Water Compact, leaving only Pennsylvania and Ohio left to remove their thumbs from their collective posteriors and get it done. Then the Congress needs to ratify it, since its essentially a treaty between Canada and the US, and it becomes law. Or whatever you would like to call it.

As the cartoon cynically suggests, the Compact will hold up until someone really wants the water and has the clout and money to get it. Its very similar to our treaty granting the Black Hills to the Indian tribes 'in perpetuity'. Until gold was discovered, that is. Then the whole damn thing was quickly thrown out the window, but not before an arrogantly over confident Gen. Custer and his hapless 7th Cavalry were buried on a hill in Montana and the tribes were relegated to godforsaken reservations in South Dakota. Would it come to that over water, or would it take gold (or oil) to make people take up arms? Armed confrontations have occurred many times in the parched west but only once east of the Mississippi. On May 8, 1892, a gang of workmen hired by Chicago entrepreneur Mr. McElroy invaded the town of Waukesha, Wisconsin. This gang was intent on laying a pipeline from Waukesha's Hygeia Spring to a suburb of Chicago. They were turned back by the citizens of that city in one of the few (to date) physical confrontations over water east of the Mississippi river. The book that I lifted that passage from is called The Great Lakes Water Wars and the website also has some fine Great Lakes water related links.

I've jumped on this soapbox before and will likely do so again. The idea of Lake Superior water squirting out of some fountain in Las Vegas tends to get me fairly riled up. I just want to do my little part to keep this water issue in peoples minds and keep them alert when challenges, like the guy who wanted to ship tankers full of Lake Superior water to China, come up. We can get by without gold and we could get by without oil, but if we have no water we're dead. Its kind of like when your little sister eats all her Halloween candy and then wants some of yours. You might give her a couple pieces but the lessons of not to be a glutton (or a short term hedonist bastard, as a long ago ex girlfriend referred to me) and that she's not entitled to the candy need to be learned. We also need to be vigilant to make sure our parents (the government) does not order us to give her the candy. All I ask is that we keep our eyes open and cross our fingers that remaining states, Feds, and Canada do the right thing when it comes to ratifying the Great Lakes Compact and protecting our water.


Nan said...

There are people down here in Georgia who see absolutely wrong with the idea of piping water from places that have it (the upper Midwest) to places that have managed to suck up what they've got through poor management and uncontrolled growth (Atlanta). It's the usual human hubris of assuming people can and should alter any environment to suit their needs regardless of long term consequeces. The subject came up at work one day, and several of my co-workers (all native Georgians, or close to it) were flabbergasted when I told them that the folks in the Great Lakes watershed are not going to just quietly step aside and say, "sure, take all the water you want -- we're not using it." They look at the Great Lakes and see reservoirs that could be tapped at will.

DaveO said...

Oh so true. It amazing how much water we DON'T need to use, a point that is driven home when camping and folks are forced to filter/boil/ treat all water. It would piss me off even more than the Vegas thing to see Lake Superior water keeping the greens at Augusta National nice for the Masters. Make sure the good ol boys in Buckhead know that! Thanks for your usual succinct comment. Had a fine Memorial Day just south of Upson, WI.