Saturday, October 27, 2007

Business Experts Predict Boom In US, Other Water Sales

According to one business writer, large-scale water sales from our region to Texas and beyond are predictable and calculable - - just a matter of time and economics.

And water sales that dwarf the exploding market in plastic water bottles that people carry around like security blankets these days, filled with Michigan wetlands water branded as Ice Mountain, or other similar fake names and designer labels.

Bad enough as these bottle-by-bottle diversions of water from our region have become, corporate America has something even more troublesome in mind.

The Chief Executive of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange thinks there could soon be a lucrative market in trading water futures contracts, much the way wheat, copper, coffee and pork bellies are bought and sold.

With billions of dollars to be made from very willing (parched) buyers - - tomorrow Atlanta, next decade China? - - is the relatively weak US Water Resources Development Act effective enough to prevent such sales?

Probably not.

Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson said a few weeks ago that Wisconsin is "awash in water," so why wouldn't business begin to invest in marketing, pipelines and other delivery mechanisms to move Great Lakes and other fresh water reserves around the country and globe?

For the Great Lakes, and Wisconsin, it's a genuine threat, but still the Wisconsin legislature can't even debate a bill to adopt a pending agreement among the Great Lakes states and Canada to improve on the existing federal law by adding diversion standards and procedures.

The agreement, known as the Great Lakes Compact, would apply standards to restrict bottled water sales and wholesale diversions away from the Great Lakes basin.

Will the Wisconsin legislature move forward and ratify the Great Lakes Compact, or will it continue to be cowed by anti-regionalists like State Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), who, along with states' rights allies in Ohio, want to torpedo the Compact and make the Great Lakes even easier to divert?

Wisconsin is the only Great Lakes state that has neither approved the Compact or debated such a bill.

Without the Compact, life-supporting, economy-dependent water will become another commodity sold for profit to the highest bidder without regard to local needs or the public interest.

That would leave the Great Lakes - - the world's largest concentration of fresh surface water - - vulnerable to disasterous depletion.