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Bottled Water and Michigan Resources

by Ray Schmidt

Right now our state legislators are drafting changes to Michigan’s water laws and debating passage of the Great Lakes Basin Compact. What is this all about? One of the key issues concerns the bottling and sale of Michigan’s water.  Lawmakers are battling over whether to maintain or close loopholes in current statutes that exempt the extraction of groundwater, as well as the sale and export of water in containers less than five and a half gallons, from the restrictions required for commercial use of Michigan’s fresh surface water.

Ask anyone living in a desert state about the cost, access and availability of fresh water and you’ll hear that the price keeps going up.  Life requires water and the demand for it is growing at an astonishing rate. Drought, climate change, an increasing global demand for fresh water and Michigan’s struggling economy leave our citizens extremely vulnerable to the powerful lobbyists pushing for increased diversion and commercialization of Great Lakes water. The abundance of fresh, clean water is our state’s single most valuable natural resource and we have to protect it.

Historically, communities were limited to their local well or supply of water. No clean drinking water? No community. Today’s story is dramatically different. Through the marvels of engineering, water is diverted hundreds, even thousands, of miles to keep the lawns green and pools filled in Arizona.  Because water is now packaged and distributed as a product, anyone can grab a gallon or two of fresh water from the local convenience store, even in the middle of the desert.  But where does this water come from? The Great Lakes comprise 20% of the world’s fresh surface water and 95% of the freshwater for the United States.

The UN predicts that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in water-scarce regions. In 1995, World Bank Vice President Ismail Serageldin claimed, “If the wars of this century were fought over oil, the wars of the next century will be fought over water."  In light of these projections, what is in the best, long-term  interest of citizens: the privatization and sale of Michigan’s water for corporate profit or the protection, preservation and administration of our water as a valuable public resource?

What can you do?  Start by educating yourself. You’ll find that the Trout Unlimited site is a good source of information and news on these issues.  Communicate your views to the public officials who represent you. In an effort to support the preservation of our public waters, Schmidt Outfitters will no longer serve commercially bottled water to our guests. In cooperation with the Michigan Council of Trout Unlimited, we’ve decided to serve fresh, clean, cold water, from our own well.

T.U. has supplied us with great water bottles for our guests’ personal drinking water during their stay with us.  Guests who want to take the bottles home can do so by becoming a member of Trout Unlimited. A Trout Unlimited membership helps us battle the big companies and conserve our water. Memberships are available from your guide or in our shop.

Help us help ourselves on this issue; it’s for the public good!