The sun pulsed in the clear blue sky, heating Anna’s back as she picked her way carefully across the rugged terrain. She searched for the safest route every time she paused. Cliffs, crevasses, and shifting rocks waited patiently for unwary travelers. Another hundred yards brought her to the edge of a steep drop off. She unpacked her rappelling gear and secured the lines. Before dropping down into the shadows she stood and scanned the horizon, shading her eyes with one hand.
As she gazed out across the lifeless expanse, it was hard to imagine this entire valley had once been filled with crystal clear water. She stood on the floor of what used to be one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, yet there was not a drop of water in sight. It had been purchased, bottled, distributed; the entire lake emptied in less than a decade.
Anna’s grandparents used to tell her stories about summer days spent at the beach, relaxing in the sand as waves crashed against the shore. They would splash and play in the ice-cold water without a care in the world. Then, in their final years, they had watched the water level fall year after year until it was gone.
As she walked herself backward down the face of the sheer rock wall, her dry throat begged for a sip of liquid. Saliva filled Anna’s mouth whenever she imagined taking a drink of the clear, cold refreshment which once seemed an inexhaustible resource. The water in her ration container would be warm already. Besides, she dare not take a drink any earlier than scheduled or her supply would never last. She had to make it past the mines to one of the few stretches which had not yet been purchased. A place where copper, maybe even a vein of gold, could be still be found and retrieved by the most daring souls. Soon there would be nothing left but ravaged land and bittersweet memories.
This is a very brief snapshot of one potential reality for The Great Lakes which surround my home state. I hope it forever remains fictitious. What do you think?