CYCLING to and from work along the shores of Lake Michigan in the summer months, marveling at the brilliant turquoise water in the morning and shades of pink, purple and deep blue in the evening, ever-varying with wind and weather, is a treat for Chicagoans. The lake makes a majestic backdrop for the city’s splendid architecture, and its beaches are a meeting place for people of all classes and colors in this still segregated place.

Lake Michigan and the four other lakes in the region are also the most important asset for Chicago’s home state, Illinois, and the seven other American states that border the Great Lakes, according to a vocal school of thought in the Midwest. “We wrecked our water by leading the industrial revolution,” says John Austin, director of the Michigan Economic Centre. “Now we have to reclaim it to secure our future.”

View the full story by The Economist