I just finished reading Peter Annin’s The Great Lakes Water Wars (Island Press, 2006), which examines the stormy history of water management policy in the Great Lakes Basin— from the reversal of the Chicago River in the late 1890s to the landmark Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact of 2005. The author argues that this non-binding regional compact needs to be ratified by all eight states in the basin in order to keep stewardship of Great Lakes water in the region. Otherwise, he contends, the Federal government could step in as steward.
Over the decades these states have cobbled together a water management strategy, but it's starting to disintegrate. Each passing decade brings new legal and political challenges to this policy—challenges such as exporting bottled water out of the region, or the shift in U.S. demographics as people flock to the Southwest.
Minnesota was first to pass the compact, last month.
Illinois is expediting that process right now. Illinois state rep Harry Osterman, from Chicago, is sponsoring HB375 (you can read some testimony here), and Illinois state senator John Cullerton, also from Chicago, is sponsoring a similar measure (SB50) to move this legislation to a full chamber vote.
The author’s website contains a map that shows how other states are progressing.
This ratification process will takes years, and in the meantime, more legal maneuvering for Great Lakes water will occur. Development follows fresh water, after all.
But I love this story; I love following it's various threads backward through U.S. history and forward to. . . who knows where. I got hooked on it a few years ago after reading Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert, which examined the history of water management west of the Mississippi.