October 10, 2008

Report Warns of Great Lakes Perfect Storm

A researcher in Wisconsin warns that climate change may put Great Lakes' water quality at risk.

Johnathan Patz of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health says an increase in extreme monsoon-like rains, as occurred in some regions last spring, is likely to aggravate the risk of outbreaks of waterborne disease in the Great Lakes region.

In a report published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Patz says a team of researchers concluded extreme rains that overwhelm the combined urban storm water and sewage systems such as those in Milwaukee and Chicago, result in millions of gallons of raw sewage being diverted to Lake Michigan are part of a decades long weather trend.

Adding to this risk is the growing concentration of livestock operations where heavy rainfall can wash large amounts of animal waste into the rivers and streams draining into the Great Lakes, Patz said.

"If weather extremes do intensify, as these findings suggest, our health will be at greater risk," Patz said in a statement. "It's the perfect storm. Deteriorating urban water infrastructure, intensified livestock operations and extreme climate change-related weather events may well put water quality, and thereby our health, at risk."