Great Lakes said to be on 'crisis pathway'

A prominent citizens' group wants to better protect the Great Lakes, which an expert says is on "a crisis pathway."
The Pelee Islander ferry could have trouble getting to and from the island if an expert's prediction of dry Great Lakes comes true. (CBC News)

Ontarians are being asked to imagine what it would be like if the Great Lakes disappeared.

The Council of Canadians said that could happen if something is not done to protect the lakes.

The citizens' group will soon tour the province suggesting a whole new approach.

Maude Barlow said she often hears how much people love the Great Lakes but the chair of the council of Canadians warned we don't love them enough. 

She said they're under attack by pollution, invasive species and a host of other threats.

Millions rely on the lakes for their drinking water.

"If the Great Lakes are being pumped at the same rate globally ground water is being pumped, the Great Lakes could be bone dry in 80 years," Barlow said.

Barlow said water is a human right and that it's time to redefine the Great Lakes as a "commons" where political jurisdiction and national borders take a back seat to shared management.

"When people tell me this is not possible I say, 'oh yeah? What about NAFTA?'" Barlow said.

The tour, called "Great Lakes Need Great Friends: Protecting The Great Lakes Forever," will visit Toronto, Hamilton, Thunder Bay, Kingston, Sarnia, Township of Tiny, Owen Sound and London.

Doug Haffner is a lead Canadian researcher on the Great Lakes. He said something has to change.

"We are now on a crisis pathway. Something's going to collapse," he said. "We're going to lose some of our critical uses of the Great Lakes and the cost to us is in the trillions of dollars."

Barlow's group will visit eight Ontario communities this month, hoping to convince people to demand a Great Lakes Basin Commons.