The Great Lakes hold about 21% of the total supply of fresh water in the entire world
Arctic Blue Waters continues the research with our ongoing articles on The 25 Shocking Facts about the Earths Dwindling Water Supply with the concerns over the declining water levels in The Great Lakes.
The Great Lakes form the exhaustive group of freshwater lakes on Earth, making up 21% of the world's total freshwater supply. The Great Lakes are registering an all-time low water level, presenting economic threats to numerous of industries that depend on the lakes water supply, including, tourism, hydroelectric generation and recreational boating.
In December 2012 records show that Lakes Michigan and Huron water levels dipped to an all-time low breaking the previous record set in 1964. The levels dipped to a low 576.15 feet, as stated by the US Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District. The water levels did not only break records but also it was the most prolonged period since 1918 and therefore continuing a 14 year streak of below average levels. Many elements have brought about this sizeable decrease in one of the world's most prime waterways but amid them, one of the most significant causes is in fact, the area's weather patterns.
The winter of 2011/2012 in The Great Lakes region had very little snow and was abnormally warm and dry and as a result had very little runoff water. However due to The Great Lakes utter size just one year would not result in such abnormal low water levels recorded.
"Water levels don't respond to just one year," said Ann Clites, a Physical Scientist at the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab. "These low levels are not because of the precipitation for one year, the lakes are just too big and there are too many factors to say that. However, the last 15 years of low levels got the lakes ready to hit all-time record lows," said Clites.
This drop in lake levels, is far more troubling due to its likeliness to shake economic framework. A great number of organisations have invested in use of the lakes and the lake water, including, commercial navigation, hydroelectric generation, coastal zoning, recreational boating and marinas, the tourism industry and the lake's ecosystems, according to the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources & Environment. During the CILER-GLERL Great Lakes Seminar Series, hosted by the University of Michigan, Professor of Environmental Economics, Michael Moore, lectures about the potential economic impacts to come for the region.
If the lake levels go on dropping, the tourist industry which includes restaurants and hotels could suffer. Real estate values on the shores of the lakes could also take a pounding. As for the marinas along the lakes, they have already been affected by the low levels as boats sit closer to the bottom.
Shipping companies could also be at an economic loss.
The low levels of the lakes and the viable economic impacts has scientists, residents, business owners and vacationers worried, as they wait to see what happens next. However, the light of hope may be dim, as Clites explains, the difference in the balance between evaporation and precipitation is that evaporation has been consistently higher and seems to be climbing. In order for water levels to increase, the lakes need a consistently higher amount of rainfall and the evaporation rates need to slow down. No one knows how long this could take.
"There is little that can be done by people, nothing we can do will raise the levels. It takes years to get in the hole and it takes years to get out," said Andrews.
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