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From the Field

Water World

October 8, 2003 | By Andy Guy
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

MLUI/Gary Howe
Working on Great Lakes water policy for the Institute has taken me around the world — from the steep banks of the Pine River in northern Michigan to the shores of Lake Biwa in Japan.

These travels have taught me two things. First, the bodies of water people rely on for living, playing, and commerce face identical challenges no matter where they are on this blue planet: Pollution, rising and wasteful consumption, and invasive species. Second, the Great Lakes region can and must lead the search for solutions.

“People notice when the Great Lakes delegation walks into the room,” a colleague remarked to me last March at the World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan. “Many expect that your region’s experts are on the cutting edge of new policies and technologies because your economy and environment are so dependent on a clean, plentiful supply of water.”

That’s a nice thought, but leaders from the Great Lakes Basin have so much to learn. Development here continues to degrade lakes and rivers and drain underground aquifers — just as it does in many Third World countries. But there also is growing awareness among our basin’s citizens that sustainable water use is our unique and
irreplaceable key to cultural identity, financial prosperity, and to life itself.

In my three years as an Institute journalist and organizer, I’ve watched citizens in the Great Lakes Basin rally entire communities to clean up ruined streams, preserve fragile wetlands, and protest misguided water export schemes. And I was in the same room when former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev proclaimed, “The global water crisis is real.”

Indeed it is, and Michigan is in the thick of it. We promise to keep you posted.

Andy Guy writes about Great Lakes water issues for the Institute from our Grand Rapids office. All of his articles are available online at www.mlui.org. You can reach him at aguy@mlui.org.

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