Great Lakes Compact

Sustaining Healthy Lake Levels and Flows of Water

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact is an historic agreement among the eight Great Lakes states to protect Great Lakes water. The Compact, which came into force on December 8, 2008, protects wildlife and habitat from water diversions from the Great Lakes basin and promotes sound water management within the basin. The Compact offers extensive protections to Great Lakes water because it treats groundwater, surface water and Great Lakes tributaries as a single ecosystem. An agreement among the Great Lakes states and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec (the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement) helps the U.S. and Canada work together on protecting the Great Lakes.

The National Wildlife Federation led efforts to negotiate and pass the Great Lakes Compact.

Water Withdrawals Threaten the Great Lakes

Removing water from the Great Lakes basin can put fish and wildlife at risk by damaging habitat and degrading water quality.  Unpredictable Great Lakes water levels due to climate change and increased water use are currently undermining how we manage water here in the Great Lakes region. While the Great Lakes are large, they are very fragile. Less than 1% of Great Lakes water is renewed annually through rainfall and snowmelt.  The Compact Protects the Great Lakes from Diversions The Compact requires anyone outside the basin who wants to use Great Lakes water to meet strict criteria. The Compact specifies that the states and the Compact Council must review any new diversions of Great Lakes water. Misuse of water within the Great Lakes basin poses a threat to fish and wildlife habitat just as diversions of water outside of the basin do. The Compact requires states to implement water conservation and management plans to protect Great Lakes water. Putting the Great Lakes Compact to Use. The Compact is a powerful tool to protect the Great Lakes. The National Wildlife Federation leads an ongoing campaign to see that the Compact is strictly enforced. As a key leader of the

Compact Agreement Coalition of environmental and conservation groups across the Great Lakes basin, NWF:

  • Works with states to comply with the requirements of the Compact;
  • Monitors all proposed water withdrawals and diversion proposals
  • Monitors the actions of the Regional Body and Compact Council; and
  • Provides expert advice and solutions to water management problems.

To learn more check out Great Lakes Outdoor or Contact NWF's policy director Marc Smith at

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Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. The National Wildlife Federation is on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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