Much of the regulation of water in the United States is split up among the states, and we tend to think of water circumstances as local in nature.
But it’s not always so.
The new book The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan, makes that point in many ways and in great detail.
It’s not about water rights per se, in that the subject is the Great Lakes which essentially are not appropriated in the sense of, say, many western state rivers.
But the breadth of impact, and its power, can easily jump from one water basin to another, and often does. The thin Erie Canal, for example, led to enormous ecological consequences for the entirety of the Great Lakes – an outcome that would have seemed inconceivable but for the fact that it actually happened.
Even greater effects happened when the thin land line separating the Great Lakes basin from the Mississippi basin was breached by a short canal, and officials had a heck of a time trying to keep ravenous fish rampaging in one system from entering the other and doing terrific damage there.
Not to mention the fact that, once you start linking water systems together, the idea of transferring needed water from one to another becomes increasingly conceivable. Egan uses the case study to the south of the battle between Tennessee and Georgia over their joint state line as a good example of what can happen.
It’s a well-told story – or link of stories – and well worth the read for anyone interested in the subject of water in the United States.