Wisconsin is bending over backwards to get Foxconn – a multinational technology manufacturing company – to set up shop in their backyard. To attract them, Racine, Wisconsin is seeking the state’s approval to divert Great Lakes water from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River watershed.
Two years ago, we fought against Waukesha, Wisconsin’s request to divert water from Lake Michigan for public water use. But Racine’s request is even more problematic.
This isn’t about drinking water supply
Unlike Waukesha, Racine doesn’t want the water for drinking. They are requesting 7 million gallons (28 million litres!) of water per day for industrial use in a neighbouring community. Racine estimates that about 2.7 million gallons of the total requested volume will be consumed in Foxconn’s manufacturing processes. The rest will be returned to the lake by way of the Racine wastewater treatment plant.
Ontario and Quebec might not have a say
In 2005, the Governors of eight Great Lakes states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin), and the Premiers of Ontario and Quebec signed the Great Lakes-St.Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement. The agreement created a regional body, and as members, Ontario and Quebec usually get to review diversion requests. But there are a few exceptions.
When a community is partially in the basin, and partially out, only the local state or province reviews the request. That means Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources will decide whether to accept or deny Racine’s application, without input from the rest of the regional body.
That is, unless five members of the regional body vote to conduct a regional review. Which is what we’re asking Ontario to do.
These are big lakes – why does it matter?
Yes – the Great Lakes are huge. They hold about 21 per cent of all available surface freshwater in the world. But most of the water is left over from when the glaciers melted about 10,000 years ago. Only one per cent of the water in the Great Lakes is renewable. That means there is a limit to how much water can be taken, before there are lasting impacts on water levels. That’s why the agreement was signed – to ensure that only communities in the Great Lakes basin could take water from the lakes.
Much like Waukesha, Racine’s diversion could set a dangerous precedent. If their diversion request is approved, it would be easier for other communities to get similar approvals. Before we know it, lots of half-in/half-out communities could be siphoning off seemingly small volumes of water for commercial purposes. And over time those seemingly small volumes would add up and draw down the lakes.
We have too much to lose if the Great Lakes aren’t protected. If you agree, take action now. Tell Ontario to demand a regional review of the Racine Diversion Request.