The problem is not that the water is moving into another basin, it's exactly as you described. Gone. The water you put in evaporates, and is gone. That becomes water that can't recharge the tributaries. Water that can't refill the great lakes.
But all this is talk. You seem to be a person who prefers concrete evidence. So, allow me to redirect your attention to another nation who decided diverting water was no big deal, and the fruits of their labor. The country is the Soviet Union, and result is the Aral Sea. They too diverted water, albeit rivers, to the desert to grow crops. What was the result? Salinity in the Aral sea jumped tenfold while the water collapsed to a fifth of what it was before they began. Now, the sea itself has become a desert, with regular dust storms whipping through. The rivers themselves dried up, with no water to recharge them, crops began to fail with a lack of water and rising CO2 levels. This is why Michigan, seven other states, and Canada have all decided the water should not leave their basins. Of course, your farm is so important. So never mind, let the construction begin.
There's a difference between food and mass quantities of water. I don't know how much they talked about it in your school, but they hammered it home here about the water cycle. I can drink the water here with no problem, because when it leaves my body in its various forms, it returns to the source from where it came. In my case, it comes from the Huron river, gets treated for chemicals and pathogens, is piped to my house, then consumed in various ways. After that, it either evaporates as sweat, where it rains over the area, or goes down a drain, where it is processed at another plant to clear any chemicals and other unwanted matter, then sent back into the Huron. This entire process all happens and remains, for the most part, within the Great Lakes drainage basin. It's perfectly okay for me to drink water and water my lawn with this water since it all returns to the basin.
Now, move that water out of the basins of the great lakes. Can it return? No. It's gone. The cycle is broken, and slowly bleeds off. It will appear as if it has no effect even for a long time, but it will have an effect eventually.
As for the EPA, they are bullies. Technically speaking, sections of my neighborhood should be classified as a swamp and protected as such because the drains in our area would be better served working as bridge pylons, and we hope that they don't catch wind. And for the environmental static, I live in Michigan's own section of California, Ann Arbor. Have to say though, it is fun watching people try to justify their purchase of solar panels when they're not effective for half the year.
Let's expand our comments and do a quick find for the word 'Detroit'. Aside from this comment, there are only two other occurrences, and they are both your comments. Please stop using ad hominems and strawmen, especially since you complained to someone else about using the latter yourself. We get it. Detroit dug itself into a really crappy corner. We have to live with it on a regular basis.
Now, as for the pipeline. I'd be very surprised if any sane person would undergo construction of such a pipeline before consulting the necessary agencies. I'd be even more surprised if the project didn't get shut down before they got anywhere close for not checking in.
Those solutions that you listed are perfectly acceptable in my mind, as they are not the numbers game that is 'virtual water', and they don't shunt the strain to remote systems. If anything, they may provide opportunities for tech advances.
You seem to be flip-flopping about whether you want the water or not. Set aside partnerships and all. The great lakes are seeing an unusual decline in their water level, which may not sound like a big deal, but when you consider they hold 20% of the world's fresh water, a decline in water level ends up being a lot of fresh water.
Now, on to partnerships. Its not just Michigan that would need to be a part of the deals. The lakes are not Michigan's alone, though we do indeed touch four of the five. They happen to be international waters, which means you also have to talk to the Canadians about the water, as well as all the other states who touch the lakes. The militant politics, as you put it, have been trying to keep the system free of invasive species, and they are failing despite their efforts. Zebra mussels have moved in, after hitching a ride on bilge water form cargo ships. Fish population is down due to the mussels filtering the water and making it more difficult for the fish to hide and spawn. Asian carp pose a massive threat to the lakes, and they are creeping ever closer, where they will wreck the system with no natural predators to maintain population. That is a massive system to get wrecked, which will have a cascading effect across the whole area. And you wonder why we are so 'militant'.
Now, nuclear. This is exactly what I am talking about. Local desalination is a solution I can get behind, as it doesn't remove water from remote systems, and hand the problem to others. Unfortunately, we still have so much fear, uncertainty, and doubt surrounding nuclear, thanks to the mismanagement of Chernobyl and Fukushima. There'd have to be a big push for nuclear, pointing out how safe the energy really is and how far the technology has come. I do however see an opportunity to regain its popularity by restarting in California. It's the place where people think of when they think 'new' technologies, and introducing new reactors like the GE Prism there could be a big step forward for clean energy.
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