What with drought threatening large sections of the American West and South, perhaps it should not be surprising to see this article from the Chicago Tribune, “Great Lakes key front in water wars; Western, Southern states covet Midwest resource,” in which the reporter warns:

With fresh water supplies dwindling in the West and South, the Great Lakes are the natural-resource equivalent of the fat pension fund, and some politicians are eager to raid it. The lakes contain nearly 20 percent of the world’s surface fresh water … Water levels of the Great Lakes are down substantially, and while that may be part of the historic cycle of ups and downs, water managers argue the region must jealously guard what is here

Even New Mexico Governor and Presidential candidate Bill Richardson couldn’t resist the temptation to speculate on using the lakes. Fortunately, there is a concerted attempt to protect them:

Eight Great Lakes-area states, from Minnesota to New York, and two Canadian provinces have proposed a regional water compact that would, among other things, strengthen an existing ban on major water diversions outside the Great Lakes Basin, home to 40 million Americans and Canadians

The New York Times Magazine ran a long story about the problems of water in the West, making it clear to me that any diversion from the Great Lakes would lead to their eventual emptying in order to keep unsustainable lifestyles going, particularly in the Southwest. According to the article, “The Future is Drying Up“:

The two problems — water and energy — are so intimately linked as to make it exceedingly difficult to tackle one without the other. It isn’t just the matter of growing corn for ethanol, which is already straining water supplies. The less water in our rivers, for instance, the less hydropower our dams produce. The further the water tables sink, the more power it takes to pump water up. The more we depend on coal and nuclear power plants, which require huge amounts of water for cooling, the larger the burden we place on supplies.

Another indication that overshooting the carrying capacity of the planet is a holistic affair, involving energy, water, forests, the climate, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, and that most difficult piece, politics.