Uses of Great Lakes water within the Great Lakes basin are steadily increasing, and critical water shortages elsewhere may add to the demands for diversions of water out of the basin in the near future. The impacts of such diversions on fish in the Great Lakes must be considered in the context of in-basin uses of the water, because in-basin uses already adversely affect the fishery resources. Temporary in-basin water withdrawals from Lake Michigan by industry in 1980 equaled 260% of the total volume of water between the shoreline and the 10-meter depth - the littoral waters most heavily used by fish as spawning and nursery grounds. Nearly 100% of the fish removed by these water withdrawals were killed. Enough young alewives (Alosa pseudoharengus) and rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) in Lake Michigan and young yellow perch (Perca flavescens) in western Lake Erie have been removed at water intakes in recent years to reduce the productivity and biomass of adult fish stocks. Out-of-basin diversions of water at Chicago and at the Welland Canal, channel modifications in the St. Clair River, and in-basin consumptive water withdrawals have lowered the annual mean water level of Lakes Michigan and Huron by about 27 cm and that of Lake Erie by about 10 cm, dewatering wetlands that historically served as spawning and nursery habitat for many valuable fish species. The dollar value of fish lost to water diversions and withdrawals has not yet been estimated, but water withdrawals alone have already reduced the annual economic impact of the Great Lakes fisheries, which has been estimated to be 1.16 billion dollars.
Additional Publication Details
Potential impacts of water diversion on fishery resources in the Great Lakes