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The Great Lakes Water Wars

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Peter Annin

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Tags: Books
Author: Peter Annin
Genre: Natural Resources, Sustainable Development, Public Policy, Water, Living on the Land, Conservation, see all
1 review about The Great Lakes Water Wars

Never Take Water for Granted

  • May 7, 2009
  • by
Every day, twice a day, I travel along the shores of Lake Erie. When traffic permits, I can't help but look out over the waters of the lake. It is not more than a mile from my house, we vacation on an island in it, we get our tap water from it, and it moderates our weather. In short, while we rarely think about it, it is always there, involved in our life.

I am now thinking more about Lake Erie, and the other Great Lakes, thanks to The Great Lakes Water Wars by Peter Annin.

Author's Note
Chapter 1: To Have and Have Not
Chapter 2: The Aral Experiment
Chapter 3: Rising Temperatures, Falling Water?
Chapter 4: Aversion to Diversion
Chapter 5: Reversing a River
Chapter 6: Long Lac and Ogoki
Chapter 7: Pleasing Pleasant Prairie
Chapter 8: Sacrificing Lowell
Chapter 9: Tapping Mud Creek
Chapter 10: Akron Gets the Nod
Chapter 11: The Nova Group and Annex 2001
Chapter 12: Marching toward a Compact
Chapter 13: Waukesha Worries
Chapter 14: Who Will Win the War?

Early in the book, Peter Annin looks at the Aral Sea, probably the worst ecological disaster man has wrought upon the environment. While the reader may be aware of it, Annin takes a much more detailed look at the reasons an ramifications behind that "experiment." Using Central Asia as a cautionary tale, he goes around the world to the Great Lakes Basin, an area that is home to 40 million people in two countries. Using a well researched and balanced approach to the issue of water use and policy, he brings to the forefront a war that is raging within the United States and Canada over the use of the Great Lakes. This is not a new war, but it is one that is taking on importance since the fastest growing areas of the United States are also the ones that are farthest from sources of freshwater. It is also an issue within sight of a Great Lake, as seen in the reversal of the flow of the Chicago River and in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Annin's approach to the issue makes it accessible to the general reader. While the idea of reading a book centered on water may seem "dry" (sorry about that), he does an excellent job of bringing the issues to life by incorporating maps, graphics, and recent water cases. Some, like Akron, OH, strike close to home. He delves into the policies that shape Great Lakes water use, made more difficult because the governing body includes all states and provinces that are on the shoreline of a Great Lake. The characters and personalities involved in the policy-making liven up the chapters. I was surprised to learn that Ohio's own Sam Speck, head of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, had a key role in the discussions. He not only reports on the governments and their policies, but also on the business and environmental viewpoints as well. While he leaves the discussion in late 2005, early 2006, his website, greatlakeswaterwars.com, will provide you with additional information and updates, making this a "living" book.

I live within a watershed that contains 20% of all of the freshwater in the world. Four of the lakes rank in the top ten largest freshwater lakes by area. Three of the lakes rank in the top ten freshwater lakes in volume. I have known, for a while, that I live in a very unique area of the United States. While many of my parent's friends moved to warmer climes, I kept wondering where they expected to get their water. As more people move to places that shouldn't exist, like Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, my source of freshwater will take on new and important meaning. This point was driven home when Annin reported on the issues facing Waukesha, WI. That is a place where people move with no regard to water. And they have a major issue. How many others move without asking about the natural resources available to them? What about you? Is the only time you think about water is when your city tells you not to water your lawn? This is an important book, not only for the people that live within the Great Lakes Basin, but as a glimpse into an issue that will shape the future of the United States, Canada, and other parts of the world. It is also a review of how the Great Lakes states and provinces view water use and conservation. While we may share the resource, we don't share the same viewpoint, and that was a real education.

Annin provides a lot of facts and figures, but they don't bog down the reader. He tries to keep the book flowing (again, sorry) and does a very good job, especially when he brings the people into the discussion. Breaking up the work, by using some key graphics and pictures, keeps the material interesting and also allows the reader to gain further insight into the issues. Some of his notes further expand on the points he was making, and also provide additional reading material, if you want to know more about the Great Lakes Basin and key information in the chapters.

Highly recommended.

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