Droughts seen across the U.S. due to rising temperatures and climate change are causing discussions of transporting and diverting water from the Mississippi River Basin to states in need. Fortunately, the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” has sufficient amounts of freshwater for now, but according to Dakota County Commissioner Joe Atkins, Minnesota anticipates water quality issues of our own within the next 10-12 years. Should we really consider transporting our water to western states?
There are many things to consider in such a grand transport of water from the Mississippi out west such as practicality, cost and environmental impacts. These impacts could range from alteration of the hydrology and ecology of the river/watershed to the potential transportation of invasive species and foreign pollutants. Questions of political and legal protections of Minnesota water are also being raised as the demand for water increases. Before immediately slapping a Band-Aid on the water shortage issue with the solution of cross transnational transport, the root cause of the crisis must be addressed.
The effects of siphoning the water of the Mississippi toward other states could alleviate some of the shortages out West, but result in drastic effects on the ecosystem here and in time create new shortages and issues for those living in the Midwest.
My Catholic faith teaches me that addressing this problem will require a holistic approach in attaining the greatest common good. In present society, injustices are innumerable and the principle of the common good inevitably leads to solidarity and preferential efforts to alleviate the suffering of the poorest of our brothers and sisters. In this context, we must not only consider the poorest of our people but also our environment. In Pope Francis’ most recent encyclical on the environment within paragraph 28, he warns that fresh water, “is an issue of primary importance, since it is indispensable for human life and for supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.”
The overconsumption of water will lead to a greater scarcity and ultimately lead to increases of cost in food and various products having environmental repercussions felt by billions of people. Federal protections and limitations of water and its consumption must be made, especially within regards of the Mississippi River.
We must encourage stronger federal protections and restrictions on water resources. As a country, limitations of water intake from lakes and rivers must be made and enforced in order to preserve the wetlands and ensure good health of the environmental ecology. Not only should consumption be monitored more closely, but pollution and contamination of our water must have stricter repercussions as well. We must first focus on the stewardship of water resources and address the underlying issues of water management and conservation in Minnesota before we are concerned with transporting water to other states. Advocating for federal policies to ensure we can meet actionable goals to preserve our water is another great place to start this work.
Lauren Dirnberger is a Laudato Si’ Advocate with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and in partnership with the Environmental Justice Program. Her goal is to promote integral ecology through advocacy and witness.