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Friday, February 8, 2013

Are The Great Lakes Drying Up?

In this Nov. 16, 2012 photo, the white streaks on a steel breakwall show the normal water level on Portage Lake at Onekama, Mich., which is connected by a channel to Lake Michigan. Levels across much of the Great Lakes are abnormally low, causing problems for small harbor towns that rely on boating and water tourism. (John Flesher/AP)

In this Nov. 16, 2012 photo, the white streaks on a steel breakwall show the normal water level on Portage Lake at Onekama, Mich., which is connected by a channel to Lake Michigan. Levels across much of the Great Lakes are abnormally low, causing problems for small harbor towns that rely on boating and water tourism. (John Flesher/AP)

A new study from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finds that water levels in two Great Lakes – Lake Michigan and Lake Huron – have declined to record lows, and that water levels for the other Great Lakes are also well below average.

The Great Lakes account for 90 percent of the country’s surface water reserves. The lakes are at their lowest levels since recording of water levels began in 1918.

Scientists say the declining levels are threatening wildlife and commerce, as well as quality of life for the 25 million people who live in the Great Lakes Basin. They attribute the issue mostly to changes in the climate.

“What do we do? Do we dredge more often?” asked Alan Steinman, director of Annis Resource Water Institute in Muskegon, Mich. “This is how society needs to adapt – not just with lower water levels in the Great Lakes, but also to rising sea levels like we saw in Sandy. This is really the new normal.”

Guest:

  • Alan Steinman, director of Annis Resource Water Institute in Muskegon, Mich.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Kai Mikkel Forlie

    Dredge more?  How about we work to dramatically increase conservation by all who rely on Great Lakes’ water in their homes, businesses and on farms?  The waste currently permitted is appalling and until communities and industry who use the water adopt the attitude of water scarcity, things will only get worse.  The pressures on the supply will only increase as water worldwide continues to vanish.  

    Similarly, we need to stop polluting our water by using it as the transport mechanism for our waste.  Is is so much less expensive and less damaging to us and the environment to keep water clean in the first place than to have to clean it after its become contaminated.  Let’s rethink our sewer systems, how we irrigate farmland, our use of impermeable surfaces that produce runoff and farmers’ use of annual crops that produce same.  We need to disconnect our homes from municipal sewers, employ simple grey water systems, harvest rain water for all of our water needs, roll out a new localized waste reuse system that utilizes UDDT’s (urine diverting dehydration toilets) and, when necessary, door-to-door pickup of solid and liquid waste and later use of both as fertilizer.  Conventional sewer and water systems do nothing to prevent people and industry from dumping synthetic toxic substances down their drains and flushing same down their toilets nor promotes people thinking about their water use.  

    Let’s rethink what we now take for granted because its not working.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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