Monday, February 7, 2011

Ground Water Levels Down 1000 Feet in Great Lakes Region

You know I love you, Chicago.

But guys, it's time come up with a less 19th century way to get rid of your water waste because it's a big sign that when Great Lakes states are actually getting warnings of water shortages, everybody needs to pitch in to make some changes.

We can start with the Chicago river.

Every single day for better part of a century Chicago, via the artificially backwards flowing Chicago River, has been diverting about 2.1 billion gallons of water from Lake Michigan. 2.1 Billion gallons. With a B. Every day.

I realize Chicago is the third largest city in America, and they naturally need a lot of water and also need to flush away a lot of waste. But most large cities manage to deal with their water and sewage needs without artificially reversing the flow of a river OUT of Lake Michigan. (SEE THE END OF THIS DIARY FOR MORE INFO IN THIS) Yes, yes, that seemed pretty clever back in EIGHTEEN FOURTY EIGHT. But it's the 21st century now.

Time to change.

Because it's no coincidence TEN new Lake County (Chicago region) cities need to abandon the well water systems they've had forever and start sucking water directly from Lake a questionable standing with the Great Lakes Compact, I might add...

...It's because the ground water table has dropped 1000 feet.

Yet groundwater levels have plummeted about 1,000 feet in the Chicago-Milwaukee region because of pumping for municipal supplies and could drop an additional 100 feet over the next three decades if withdrawal rates jump as expected, according to the five-year study by the federal agency.

The 2.1 billion gallons that Chicago diverts from Lake Michigan daily has lowered Lakes Michigan and Huron by about 2.5 inches
, according to the report.


Now, like I said. We ALL need to change our ways. We ALL need to chip in and reduce our wasteful habits. This isn't all on Chicago. A 2.5 inch drop in Michigan-Huron over a Century or so from the Chicago river...obviously the Chicago river is clearly not the sole cause of the Great Lakes water woes.

But a place to start SERIOUSLY looking if we want to conserve this natural resource for centuries hence, a place that would make one of the biggest impacts all at once, is the only major outlet that's sucking 2.1 billion gallons from the Great Lakes every day...the only major outlet that's grandfathered into the Great Lakes Compact designed to end Great Lakes water diversions.

Time to come up with a 21st Century solution to Chicago's water and sewer needs.

Now, for all of you who don't know about the Chicago used to be a Lake Michigan tributary. It used to feed water INTO Lake Michigan for, oh, several thousand years.

Chicago sprouted up around that area, and they would draw their water directly from Lake Michigan, and then they would flush their sewage into Lake Michigan. This turned out to not be a great what they did was they built things called "water cribs" which still exist today. The water cribs were built way out into Lake Michigan to draw in fresh water from far out, so the city could then flush its sewage into Lake Michigan and by the time it got to the water cribs it would be nice and diluted.

But then the city started to grow, and grow, and grow, and their waste output became so much that it wasn't diluted by the time it got to the city's water INTAKE, and thus began a horrible period of typhoid and cholera from unclean water and a lot of people died.

So the city came up with an idea...

...see...earlier they had built a canal between the Chicago River and the Mississippi for navigational purposes. So engineers thought it would be a great idea to reverse the flow of water in the Chicago river so it flowed OUT of Lake Michigan and INTO the Mississippi. That way they could take their clean water from Lake Michigan, and send their waste in the opposite direction to the Mississippi. They tried this for the first time in 1848, but they managed to make a successful go if it in 1900.

And ever since then, the Chicago river has diverted about 2.1 billion gallons every single day from Lake Michigan.

And not only that, but the new connection between the Great Lakes watershed and the Mississippi watershed became a rapid route for invasive species to cross from one to the other. It's how zebra mussels managed to so quickly spread to the Mississippi tributaries from the Great Lakes and how the Great Lakes are about to be invaded by Asian carps.

The reversal of the Chicago river really seemed like a good idea at the time. And it was great for Chicago. And it still is. But it's turning out to not be such a good thing for the Great Lakes, and also seems to be a significant portion of lower water tables.

Time for the Chicago river diversion to come to an end.

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