When we talk about how the grass is greener, we’re often talking in comparison to our neighboring states, but we also need to think about our assets compared to the country let alone the world.
Our selling points today are: proximity to downtown Chicago, our Lake Michigan shoreline, our rivers, our trails, our affordability, our authenticity, and as of recently, our Indiana Dunes National Park. Years from now people will migrate to our region due to our connection to one of the world’s largest economies, Chicago; but even more appealing is our access to one of the world’s largest sources of freshwater, Lake Michigan.
The water is bluer here compared to other places in the country. My friends in Colorado and California post on social media a scenic picture with the statement “my state is better than yours.” Yet, those who live in the western United States face chronic extreme weather conditions and an unreliable source of water – a threat to living there.
The Colorado River Basin provides water to over 40 million people, and is losing water at a very rapid and unsustainable pace. The California Central Valley, separate from the Colorado River Basin, has one of the most critical groundwater supplies in the country, which was unregulated until 2014. Look to our Great Plains states, the Ogallala Aquifer, a ground water supply, covering 174,000 square miles stretching from South Dakota to Texas. All of these water supplies are not replenishing at the rate at which the water is pumped. The scarcity of water and unsustainable use will lead to a water crisis.
These water supplies provide drinking water and are vital to our country’s agricultural and food supply. About 80-90% of water consumption comes from agriculture. The Ogallala Aquifer supports nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle produced in the US. California produces two-thirds of our country’s fruits and nuts much of the produce coming from the Central Valley.
As basic economics indicate when supply is low and demand is high the price will increase. As the cost of water increases the price of food will also increase potentially causing a food crisis in the country.
When I lived in California working on drinking water supplies, a few people would suggest solving their water issues by shipping water from the Great Lakes.The Great Lakes is the world’s largest source of surface freshwater supplying water to over 30 million people and making up 21% of the world’s surface fresh water.
Thanks to the Great Lakes Compact passed by Congress in 2008 and approved by all eight Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces shipping water outside of the Great Lakes basin is not possible. We owe deep gratitude to our lawmakers who continue to protect and preserve our greatest asset, Lake Michigan.
After my experience of living in the Central Valley of California – some property values hitting zero because wells to the ground water were dry, lakes and reservoirs hitting record lows supplying water to farms and people, people turning to bottled water as their water became contaminated from the depths of the aquifer – Lake Michigan’s water supply will attract people.
To rebut my friends’ social media “my state is better than yours” I would post my favorite place in the world and our region’s greatest asset: Indiana’s Lake Michigan.