Nov 01, 2007

Great Lakes Key Front in Water Wars

While the West burns and the Southeast bakes, there is little to suggest a large-scale, climatological catastrophe playing out any time soon in the Midwest. In fact, farmers in Iowa and Minnesota had trouble last week harvesting their corn and soybean crops because there had been too much rain.

But potentially huge battles over water are looming in the Great Lakes region as cities, towns and states near and far fight for access to the world's largest body of fresh surface water, all of it residing in the five Great Lakes.

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

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democratic candidate for president, gave voice to his water lust early this month by suggesting that water from the Great Lakes could be piped to the rapidly growing -- and increasingly dry -- Southwestern states.

"States like Wisconsin are awash in water," Richardson told the Las Vegas Sun.

Richardson soon backed off after swift protests from the Midwest, including a resounding "No" from Michigan's Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

That won't be the end of it. The fires in Southern California, the prolonged drought in the Southeast and the shrinking flow of the Colorado River, which feeds seven Western states, have underscored the importance of water supplies in rapidly developing regions and the determination of a handful of states to hold on to a resource they see as key to their economic future.