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You are watching: Gallons of water in a lake


The waters of Lake Michigan are close to all-time highs, resulting in erosion and damage along the lakeshore. High winds can also send tide crashing onto parts of Lake coast Drive, whereby 160,000 cars drive each day.

Among the countless who take it the drive to work is Don Straube, that wrote in come Ask WGN: Is there anything we can do to reduced the level that the lake?

The equation the what brought about the highest water levels viewed on Lake Michigan because the 1980s is reasonably straightforward: rainfall in and also evaporation out.

“We’ve checked out over the last few years excessive precipitation below in the Midwest, and also we’ve seen reduced evaporation,” explains Alliance for the an excellent Lakes CEO Joel Brammeier.

A lot smaller part of the equation is the Chicago River, i m sorry takes in about two billion gallons that water from the lake every day, sending it under the Mississippi River and into the Gulf of Mexico.

This enormous feat of design did lower the lake — by around an inch.

“And so if you deserve to imagine this enormous volume of water leaving the lake already just reduced it by an inch, you deserve to imagine what it would certainly take to lower it by any kind of meaningful amount,” Brammeier said.

According come satellite measurements, Lake Michigan hold one quadrillion gallons of water. It’s so huge that you would must drain about 400 exchange rate gallons indigenous it just to reduced the level by one inch. Because that comparison, over there was about 13.7 exchange rate gallons of bottled water spend in the entire U.S. In 2017, according to industry estimates.

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Theoretically, friend could build a massive pipeline to drainpipe water indigenous the great Lakes, as part from drought-stricken claims in the western U.S. Have proposed. But even given endless time and resources to do so, Brammeier said it would likely be difficult politically.

Passed in 2008, a law dubbed the great Lakes Compact effectively bans water from being diverted indigenous the an excellent Lakes. Any significant withdrawal would need to be authorized by to represent from every the states in the U.S. And also Canada the border the lake system.

A couple of diversions (in the millions — no billions) have actually been approved, yet even those to be controversial and also typically require providers to return an same amount that water come the system. This method they have tiny to no noticeable influence on lake levels.

“It’s already extremely controversial for Chicago and Illinois to be acquisition that two billion gallons a day that it take away now,” Brammeier said. “Multiply the times 10 and also you deserve to imagine what the public outcry would be.”

Ultimately, the water level in the good Lakes have been walk up and down normally for millennia. But thanks to climate change, Brammeier said, it’s happening much more rapidly.

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Low lake levels are presented in this picture from the Lake Michigan lakeshore in 2013

“We think the extreme of the variation, jumping indigenous a record low to a record high in a issue of three or four years, is what’s yes, really shaking things up. This is gonna be the brand-new normal,” Brammeier said.

With any type of man-made systems to the lake levels the end of the picture, the best we deserve to do is prepare better for record highs and lows. After lake levels drop is the finest time to build more resilient shorelines. That way our communities are prepared when water levels increase again.

“Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of you have the right to do right now other than batten down the hatches, try to safeguard what we’ve acquired as best we can, and also wait for the water levels to go down,” Brammeier said.

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A coast is reinforced through sand bags in Beverly Shores, IN near Indiana Dunes nationwide Park

So, the lot of money, time and political will certainly it would take to reduced the level the the lake, whether by pumping water earlier into the river or by any type of other means, is probably just too high. Specialists seem to agree that us should simply let nature take it its course.

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It’s probably not the prize we want as we check out the shoreline disappearing, however as always, we’re simply trying come level through you.