Periodically the National Geographic magazine publishes articles on water. Some have been nothing more than hysterical scare pieces. In one issue they said, “The world’s largest freshwater system has shrunk before, but never so quickly.”
The article failed to mention that the Great Lakes have risen and fallen over many years and that the lowest levels for the lakes were: 1926 for Lake Superior, 1934 for Lake Erie, 1935 for Lake Ontario and 1964 for Lakes Michigan and Huron.
The NOAA web site http://www.glerl.noaa.gov/data/now/wlevels states, “Great Lakes water levels constitute one of the longest high quality hydrometeorological data sets in North America with reference gauge records beginning about 1860 with sporadic records back to the early 1800s. These levels are collected and archived by NOAA’s National Ocean Service.”/
As in the past, some lakes are above their long-term average while others are below their long-term average, but, as of today, none are near their long term lows.
Similarly people hysterically claim that power plants use “precious” water resources.
Typically they will claim that 41% of the water withdrawn from U.S. freshwater lakes and rivers is for power generation — more than is withdrawn for agriculture. They fail to mention that nearly all of the water used by power plants is returned to the lakes and rivers.
Only 3% of the water consumed in the U.S. is consumed by power plants. Agriculture accounts for 83% of U.S. water consumption.
Another fact often overlooked by extremists is that, east of the Mississippi, less than 10% of the water that falls as rain is consumed. East of the Mississippi there is a water surplus. (The same is true in the Pacific Northwest.)
This brings us to the crux of the issue.
There are portions of the U.S. where there are genuine water shortages.
Shortages need to be recognized and taken into consideration when new power plants are built. Air-cooled condensers and other means can be used to minimize water usage, though at a higher cost.
As with so many so-called “green” issues, it’s important to separate the wheat from the chaff. Too many environmentalists and media outlets hype hysterical information while ignoring facts.
The Great Lakes are not disappearing. There are ample supplies of water in most areas east of the Mississippi.
Power plants do not consume inordinate amounts of water.