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Save our water State Senate should approve bill to protect Great Lakes

Western New York has lost much of its industry, many of its good-paying jobs and way too much of its self-confidence. Just imagine what it would be like if we started losing a lot of our water, too.

If the members of the New York State Senate imagine it, they'll quickly join the members of the Assembly in ratifying the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. That's the alliance with seven other states and two Canadian provinces that would govern any future action on the part of any of them that could draw down the precious water in the interconnected and life-giving Great Lakes.

A quick look over Niagara Falls might give the impression that there's no shortage of water in the Great Lakes and their attendant rivers. But that's not true of the rest of the United States -- where much of the population growth is in the thirsty Southwest -- or many other parts of the world.

There are already some rules requiring that no Great Lakes state could allow any export or other use of water that would significantly draw down the supply. But those rules lack the enforceability that this state-to-state and nation-to-nation compact would provide.

Minnesota has adopted the compact. Both houses of the Illinois Legislature approved it unanimously, and it awaits the governor's review. If Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ontario, Quebec -- and New York -- also ratify it, and Congress signs off, the deal would instantly require the consent of all for any to do anything that would deplete the lakes. Absent that, the temptation (money) that could be floated before any one of the participants might be too much to resist, even though the state or province selling would reap all of the benefits while all of the surrounding areas would share the loss.

Increasing demand for clean, fresh water around the world, the impact of global climate change and the continuing propensity of humanity to use all of its waterways as garbage dumps and sewers means that the health of the Great Lakes remains crucial to the environmental and economic health of the entire region, and the entire continent.

The Assembly celebrated Earth Day this year by passing, 146-0, its version of the ratification legislation, as sponsored by Assemblyman Bob Sweeney, D-Lindenhurst. Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, has managed to get the bill ratifying the compact into the Senate Rules Committee, whence it must come to the full Senate for a vote before the end of the session June 21.

The various state and provincial leaders who negotiated the pact have already done the heavy lifting. All the Senate has to do is to say yes. Right away.

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