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2013 Forum

14th Annual Environmental Forum Our Water’s Fragile Future:

Hydrofracking, Climate Change, & Privatization

Canadice Lake

(photo: Canadice Lake by former Chairperson Ray Nelson)

  • Where will all the water for fracking come from?
  • What’s happening to Great Lake levels?
  • Will our children have the same access to clean water that we do?
  • We welcome Jim Olson, the environmental attorney who helped citizens in Michigan win a battle against Nestle’s bottling operation. Jim will share his expertise on protecting fresh water for the “common good” and how it pertains to our Great Lakes and Finger Lakes.

* To find out how you can help protect our Great Lakes waters to to our Great Lakes Committee.

* Also: The WXXI 1370 Radio podcast from the April 19th 1:00 PM is finally online, at least for a limited time. Download and link to it while you can! You may download by clicking on the blue title for the program (recommended) or click play to stream online: “Attorney James Olson joins us in advance of an evening talk in Rochester about the law and hydro-fracking.”


Water! Our fresh water! Here in upstate New York, clean potable water is one of the most abundant and important of our resources. We live in the Great Lakes Basin, on the shore of bountiful Lake Ontario and near the beautiful Finger Lakes. We use these lakes as sources of drinking water and are fortunate to be able to do so. But along with the rest of the world, we may soon face challenges that end easy access to abundant fresh water for all.

New York State may begin this year to permit hydrofracking for natural gas. Hydrofracking uses 3 to 9 million gallons of fresh water each time a well is “fracked” (USGS). Many thousands of wells could be drilled in New York State and fracked on multiple occasions. Where will all of that fresh water come from? How and where will the toxic wastewater be processed?

Similarly, climate change plays a role in how water throughout the world is distributed. Our area is expected to see more precipitation in winters, drier summers, and increased extreme storm events. The Upper Great Lakes have already experienced a drop in precipitation and lower groundwater levels. Lake levels have also been on the decline and could drop another two feet within decades (UCS).

It is estimated that only 1% of the water that makes up the Great Lakes is replenished by precipitation each year. Exacerbating the problem, groundwater is being drawn down without regulation. In the past 40 years, the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan/Uzbekistan, formerly the world’s fourth largest lake, has been drained 90% to grow cotton in the desert. That’s the equivalent volume of Lake Huron and Lake Erie combined! Could the same thing happen to our Great Lakes or Finger Lakes?

As water becomes more scarce and more valuable, private companies are buying the rights to fresh water, also known as “privatization,” in order to sell it to the highest bidder, leaving those who can’t pay without. How well will our water supply be protected by the existing Great Lakes Compact, the proposed lake level plan (BV7), and the new NYS water withdrawal regulations? Will there be wars fought over our water? Will our children have the same access to clean water that we do? How do we prevent our water from becoming a commodity and restore it back to the common good for future generations?

Join us for an evening with Jim Olson, a Michigan environmental attorney who has been fighting for 40 years for everyone’s right to the clean water that sustains life (read more about Olson on p. 3). He will discuss the multiple affronts to our water cycle and provide us with concrete ways we can restore and protect it. Jim is not only the foremost U.S. legal expert on this topic, but is also a passionate and entertaining speaker. You don’t want to miss the Forum!

Following his presentation, Jim Olson will join a panel of guests to answer questions from the audience. The panel will include Roger Downs, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter Conservation Program Director and our chief Albany lobbyist, and Rita Yelda, who works for Food and Water Watch in Buffalo, and is founder of WNY Drilling Defense.


Forum Schedule

First Unitarian Church of Rochester
220 Winton Road South
Suggested donation: $3-15 appreciated but not required
Thursday, April 19, 2012
5:30pm: Doors open
• Network with and learn from 30+ local organizations
• Local, sustainably produced food and drink available for purchase
7pm: Formal Program
9pm: Adjourn

Jim Olson

About Jim Olson, Speaker at the 14th Annual Environmental Forum Attorney

Jim Olson represented the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) of Mecosta County in their successful struggle to reduce over pumping from Nestle’s bottling operation, which was adversely affecting the Little Muskegon River and the level of two lakes. Jim is also the chairperson of FLOW for Water (, a coalition of environmental groups that work to protect water as a “common good” for future generations, through the legal and political structure of the Public Trust Doctrine. Jim appeared in the film Blue Gold: World Water Wars.