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Environmental Issues

USGS: Great Lakes system has potential for local shortages

February 07, 2011
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WASHINGTON — A new basin-wide water availability assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found that the Great Lakes, despite being the largest freshwater system on Earth, has the potential for local shortages, according to a press release.

For example, though groundwater pumping has had relatively little effect on water in the basin as a whole, pumping in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas has caused local groundwater levels to decline as much as 1,000 feet, the release stated.

Moreover, if pumping were to increase as anticipated in the region, water levels in these areas are estimated to decline an additional 100 feet by 2040.

“While there is an abundance of water in the region, we may see local shortages or conflicts because water is not distributed evenly,” said Howard Reeves, USGS scientist and lead author on this assessment. “In some areas, the physical quantity of water may be limiting, and water availability in most of the Great Lakes Basin will be determined by social decisions about impacts of new uses on existing users and the environment.”

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