McLeansboro Times-Leader

Opinion

January 10, 2013

Water battles loom in wake of shortage on Midwest rivers

The Army Corps of Engineers blasted rock formations from the Mississippi River bottom near the town of Thebes recently, keeping the river open for barge traffic.

The Corps was hopeful that recent snow and rain would raise the river level and dredging wouldn’t be needed.  

Meanwhile, a record shortage of water on our rivers is creating water wars all along their routes.

South Dakota is adamant that millions of gallons of water be kept available for the state’s fracking operations. Cutting the flow from dams in South Dakota will reduce the Mississippi’s water level in the St. Louis area by 3 to 4 feet.

Meanwhile, Illinois legislators in Washington are asking that President Obama declare an economic emergency and authorize the Army Corps to reopen these dams.

As water becomes a more and more valuable commodity, Southern Illinois will need a plan for water conservation. It is expected that drought conditions will remain for some time.

Other parts of the state have already developed a plan. But Southern Illinois has yet to move in that direction.

The first step will be to determine current usage and water availability.  

The oil and gas industry is preparing to drill for gas using horizontal fracturing (fracking) soon. Fracking uses about 3 million gallons of water per frack. And each well could be fracked 18 times.

Multiple wells will be placed on one well pad. Water to frack one well is equal to all of Lake of Egypt’s water use for three to four days.  

Once the water has been used for fracking, it cannot be returned to the water table due to toxicity and radioactivity.     

Members of the SAFE Movement (www.dontfractureillinois.net) are committed to saving water that is badly needed for livestock, farming and household use.

SAFE believes that, since water is a basic need, no industry should be allowed to control water rights. Communities should have the authority to determine water usage.

Water-rights issues are already being argued in central Illinois due to the reduced level of the shared Mahomet aquifer.

Soon, Southern Illinois residents will need to determine the best use of their limited supply.        

• Annette McMichael is media relations coordinator for SAFE.

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