The Great Lakes states and provinces have shut the door to out-of-basin diversions. But the greater threat to the Great Lakes is our own wasteful water practices. It’s time we turn attention to how we can use conservation to relieve the strain on our struggling ecosystem.
The Great Lakes contain an astounding 6 quadrillion gallons of water. But, any suggestion that this is an endless supply is false. In fact, less than 1 per cent of this water is renewed every year. This sliver must meet the needs of 40 million people and the environment. A healthy Great Lakes ecosystem depends upon maintaining a delicate balance.
Unfortunately, our cities have been built in such a way that heavy strains are placed on the ecosystem. Enormous amounts of energy is used
pumping and treating water, while grossly inefficient infrastructure bleeds up to 20 per cent of its water before it ever gets to the tap. At the end of the pipe, antiquated sewer systems are frequently overwhelmed during heavy rainfall, releasing over 23 billion gallons of raw sewage into the Lakes every year.
Unless we act, these problems will only become worse and the health of the Great Lakes more dire.
Water conservation offers a way to correct inefficiencies and promote sustainable growth. By using less water we reduce greenhouse gases and relieve the burden on our aging infrastructure. Instead of spending billions of dollars building new treatment plants and long-distance pipelines, focussed effort on maintaining current infrastructure can save individual municipalities tens of millions of dollars in deferred upgrades.
Water conservation also creates jobs. From construction to landscaping to engineering, these are quality careers that cannot be outsourced. This region has the potential to become a center for innovative, world-leading ‘blue’ technology.
A focussed effort on water conservation will stimulate the economy, save money, lower energy demand, and relieve the stress on a struggling ecosystem. This is about more than low-flow toilets, it’s about protecting the Great Lakes by rethinking the most fundamental ways we use water.