Drought has caused water levels on Lake Michigan to drop to lowest levels in recorded history. The lake feeds several rivers, which have also dropped levels and flow. Impacts include slowed shipping and nasty sewage backup. In fact, instead of the water flowing from the lake into the Chicago River, the river could actually reverse flow and empty into the lake. The Chicago River btw is “70-percent sewage.”
Drought could reverse flow of Chicago River
Water levels on Lake Michigan are the lowest in recorded history. If the level continues to drop, the Chicago River could reverse itself and send untreated sewage into Lake Michigan.
“We’ve been monitoring since 1918 and this is the lowest Lake Michigan and Lake Huron have been,” Roy Deda, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said. “There would be some potential water quality impact to the Great Lakes if we were to continue to lock vessels when the river is higher than the lake.”
“Our river is 70-percent sewage. I think we need to recognize that. This is an open sewer. It depends upon gravity to go away from us. If that gravity does not work with the lake going down, it goes the other way, and we have done nothing to deal with the contaminants that we need to actually invest in fixing,” Henry Henderson, Natural Resources Defense Council
The Army Corps of Engineers said it is carefully monitoring the situation, and if lake levels continue to drop, they may have to modify how they operate the locks to limit the amount of water that goes into the lake, which would have an impact on recreational boats and barge traffic.
Chicago and the Gulf Dead Zone: NRDC Lawsuits Address Downstream Damage
The popular legend is that Chicago’s jazz tradition arose from a migration of musicians from New Orleans up the Mississippi River in the 19th century. It seems Chicago is now returning scat to New Orleans back down the Mississippi, but I don’t mean the vocal kind.
The Chicago area’s sewage has been found to be the biggest single contributor to the “Dead Zone” that has emerged in the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi River – an area larger than the State of Connecticut where the oxygen levels in the water are so law that it can’t support life. The sewage contains phosphorus, a pollutant that acts like turbo-charged fertilizer fueling the growth of oxygen-depleting algae in the Dead Zone and elsewhere. - Read more in Ann Alexander’s Switchboard blog.
Government corruption, and industrial, agricultural, and city pollution, and illegal water extraction are obliterating Egypt’s lakes, rivers and wetlands. It seems nothing can be done but document the destruction.
“Lake Maryut has been reduced by more than 75 percent and is still shrinking, according to Eddin. The main causes are urban encroachment and solid waste dumping from the rapidly growing city of Alexandria. Lake Maryut’s area covered 200 square kilometers at the beginning of the 20th century, but at the beginning of the 21st it covers only about 50.
Lake Burullus, despite being declared a protectorate by Prime Ministerial Decree 1444/1998, has lost an estimated 37 percent of its open-water area and 85 percent of its marsh area in the past 40 years, largely as a result of ongoing drainage and reclamation of the lake’s eastern, western and southern margins.”
A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.
I'm a climate change consultant specializing in climate adaptation, environmental law, and urban planning based in the U.S. In addition to traveling and hiking, I research, publish, and lecture on how cities can adapt to climate change.
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