PETER ANNIN, Journal Sentinel

In 1998, an Ontario consulting firm known as the Nova Group announced a controversial plan to ship 158 million gallons of azure Lake Superior water to Asia. The idea: create a global market for pristine Great Lakes water. To regional governors and premiers — who had spent years fighting to keep Great Lakes water inside the Great Lakes Basin — Nova’s plan was a nightmarish legal precedent. If people were permitted to tanker water to Asia, how could officials prevent Great Lakes water from being piped to Dallas, Phoenix or L.A.?

Politicians, journalists and the general public swarmed all over Nova, and the unsuspecting entrepreneurs eventually surrendered their water permit. Then, regional officials leveraged the hullabaloo into a multiyear bipartisan overhaul of Great Lakes water diversion statutes, resulting in a groundbreaking Great Lakes Compact that bans diversions with limited exceptions.

Today, the Great Lakes region has a new diversion controversy. The city of Waukesha — using an untested exception clause in the compact — has asked to divert up to 10.1 million gallons of water per day. It’s the most polarizing diversion proposal since Nova, and on Thursday, Great Lakes officials will gather in Chicago to try to reach consensus on the diversion. To read full editorial.

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