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Water Today Title December 11, 2017

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Great Lakes' demise?

The largest fresh water system on earth, representing about one-fifth of the world's fresh surface water supply, is under siege. Water levels in the Great Lakes have dropped to the lowest levels in decades. Some blame low precipitation, others evaporation, others dredging and many more, climate change.

The long awaited report from the International Joint Commission (IJC) on water levels, released on April 26, recommends that the governments of Canada and the United States investigate structural options to restore water levels in Lake Michigan-Huron by 13 to 25 centimeters (about 5 to 10 inches)... and do more studies. While this is applauded by the Georgian Bay Association as well as residents and cottagers on Lake Huron and Michigan, the U.S. chair of the commission, Lana Pollack, declined to approve the group's recommendations, in part because she said it does not put enough emphasis on climate change and may create false expectations.

Meanwhile, the Lakes low water levels are having an adverse effects on the ecosystem, on the economy and on tourism. Boats can't be fully loaded if the water they're in isn't deep enough. This increases the cost of shipping and directly impacts consumers.

Then there's the plastic.

In an expedition led by Lorena M. Rios Mendoza from the University of Wisconsin, researchers collected trash and fish from the Great Lakes. They found that, like the Pacific patch, the garbage in the Great Lakes is made up of huge amounts of tiny pieces of plastic, 85 percent of which are smaller than two-tenths of an inch and many of those microscopic. The big problem here is that hwile humans can't see them, fish gobble them up, thinking that they're food. Indeed large amounts of plastic particles were found in dissected fish.

Then there's the Asian Carp

Slowly but inexorably making their way to the the Great Lakes. Just this Tuesday, officials with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Ontario of Ministry of Natural Resources confirmed that a fish caught south of Hamilton is a live Asian carp. It was caught close to the mouth of the Grand River, near Lake Erie. Maybe what we need is another study.

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