Great Lakes states to form water pact

Call them water wars, with the Great Lakes states hunkering down to protect what they see as theirs.

Why would they need to form a water pact to protect their water? Let the always-charming Dick Armey explain.

“We’re not going to be buying it. We’re going to be stealing it,” then-U.S. Rep. Dick Armey (R-Texas) said in 2000. “You’re going to have to protect your Great Lakes.”

That’s the incentive behind the proposed water compact. Bill Richardson of New Mexico is making similar threats, saying Great Lakes water needs to be sent to the Southwest – that such a mad scheme would be hugely expensive, impractical, plus the Great Lakes are also low on water, appears not to matter to him. Nor does concern as to what this might do to the Great Lakes long term.

Asymptotic Life has commented here that the northern tier states have the water and the southern tier states grow the food. This is certainly true. But there’s no practical way to get northern water to southern states.

“It doesn’t make economic sense to send Great Lakes water to the High Plains or the Southwest,” Annin said, “but we know the thirsty will be calling.”


  1. The interesting thing here is that what the southwest ships to the north (produce) is about 90% water. In 1997, CA shipped 1.7 billion pounds of broccoli– roughly equivalent to a quarter of a billion gallons of actual water content (as opposed to irrigation used). And that’s just one crop.

    That water never gets returned to CA (or any of the other western states in which it might have originated)– and I don’t know how it could. But as we think about water “fairness,” such issues will need to be considered. Water changes hands all the time, only sometimes it’s disguised as something else.

  2. To further add to the problem, the Great Lakes currently have a water shortage.

    “Water levels in the Great Lakes are falling; Lake Ontario, for example, is about seven inches below where it was a year ago. And for every inch of water that the lakes lose, the ships that ferry bulk materials across them must lighten their loads by 270 tons — or 540,000 pounds — or risk running aground, according to the Lake Carriers’ Association, a trade group for United States-flag cargo companies.”

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