The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (“Compact”) is at a critical juncture. The Compact, a binding agreement among the Great Lakes states to protect the water resources of the Great Lakes Basin from diversions and excessive withdrawals, became law two and a half years ago. Together with a similar agreement between the states and the Great Lakes Canadian provinces, the Compact set minimum requirements for water use across the Basin. Each state agreed to implement the Compact by meeting a series of deadlines over five years, subject to regional oversight. Today, implementation of the Compact is at the halfway point.
Implementing the Compact is essential to the health of the Great Lakes, to the interconnected waters of the Great Lakes Basin, and to the people, economy, and wildlife that depend on the entire ecosystem. The Great Lakes are a vast, but surprisingly fragile, natural resource. Together, the five Great Lakes make up 84% of all fresh surface water in North America and 21% of fresh surface water in the world. Yet less than 1% of the water in the Great Lakes Basin is renewable through precipitation, surface water runoff, and groundwater recharge. Even if water uses remain within that 1%, local shortages of surface water or groundwater can dramatically affect users and degrade the environment.
This report reviews the state and regional implementation of the Compact in three critical areas: diversions out of the Basin; water conservation and efficiency; and water withdrawal permitting.
For each area, the report gives examples of the good, the bad…and the downright ugly. A summary of these examples follows
Diversions out of the Basin
Water Conservation and Efficiency
Water Withdrawal Permitting
The good examples of implementation in this report show that the promise of the Compact remains bright. But the Compact needs renewed commitment by the states and the region to address the bad—and stop the ugly.
Implementing the Compact is essential to the health of the Great Lakes, to the interconnected waters of the Great Lakes Basin, and to the people, economy, and wildlife that depend on the entire ecosystem.
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