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Planning for the Possibilities
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Planning for the Possibilities

“I’ve always been surprised by the attitude that people from this region have toward the Great Lakes,” mused adjunct business instructor Robert Loeffler. “They might sometimes question the safety or cleanliness of the water, but if someone tries to take a bucket full out of the lake, they get very emotional.”

While there are no public plans to raid the Great Lakes in a national water redistribution project, Loeffler believes it is one of several scenarios that should be considered as water becomes an increasingly sought-after commodity.

Loeffler has taught in Notre Dame’s Weekend College for 20 years and has 25 years of experience in public relations and public affairs. His interest in the prospect of redistributing the Great Lakes water supply began after reading news articles and editorials discussing the future of the Great Lakes. “Throughout my whole career, I have written articles on technical and engineering subjects, using facts and numbers to explain the issues. But on this subject, the news articles lacked hard data.”

What he did find was water diversion is not a new idea. “Alaska has been exporting fresh water down the West Coast via boats,” said Loeffler “and Chicago has diverted a river moving fresh water from Lake Michigan into the Mississippi. It is conceivable for this to happen on a larger scale.”

Further, he learned that politicians have suggested the possibility of water sharing between states. “If they are alluding to this, it is an issue,” said Loeffler. “You could see a caucus of congressional members getting together and saying ‘We represent a significant number of American citizens. We need the water here.’”

Loeffler’s findings were included in Earth Watch Ohio, a bi-monthly newspaper distributed by a state-wide nonprofit organization of the same name. The publication features stories on topics related to creation of a sustainable future for Ohio.

In his article, Loeffler urged Great Lakes residents to begin planning for these many possibilities. “A number of individuals should look at four or five scenarios that might present themselves over the next five or ten years: the idea of the Great Lakes Compact, the idea of the Great Lakes becoming a federalized water source, or even staying status quo. These scenarios should be discussed before somebody else arrives and says ‘This is what we are going to do.’ We need a place at the table to state our case. Once a decision has been made, it would be difficult to come back try to have any input.”