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Great Lakes States Prepare for Water Wars

The Great Lakes hold one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water and 95% of the fresh surface water in the U.S. With droughts and the population shift from the Midwest into southern and western states, the eight states and two Canadian provinces that border the Great Lakes are sitting on a potential gold mine — and they aim to keep it for themselves.

Water, or “blue gold,” is predicted to become a hot commodity in coming decades (see our Aug. 11 post) which means that those who control the enormous amount of water contained in the Great Lakes will wield enormous power. That thought has apparently crossed the minds of Midwest politicians. All states and provinces contiguous to the lakes have entered into the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact to ensure that water will not be diverted outside the Great Lakes basin by pipeline or tanker.

Border states concerned about the effects of climate change don’t want southern and western states trying to tap into the Great Lakes as their own water sources dry up. “The value of potable water is expected to increase significantly during this century,” warns Peter Annin, author of The Great Lakes Water Wars. While shipping Great Lakes water is considered unrealistically expensive today, the former Newsweek correspondent reminds us that we once felt that way about shipping oil overseas.