National Wildlife Federation

12/08/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/08/2023 09:55

Great Lakes Compact Celebrates 15th Anniversary

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Fifteen years after federal approval of an historic Compact to protect Great Lakes water from diversion and unwise use, conservation groups are celebrating the revolutionary water management regime that secures the Great Lakes for future generations.

"For the past fifteen years, the Great Lakes Compact has served as a beacon to the world of how to manage freshwater resources." said Marc Smith, policy director for the National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes Regional Center. "While we continue to face the unpredictable impacts of climate change, the Compact protects the Great Lakes from increasing demands from a thirsty world, and does this in a way that sustains Great Lakes water use that protects our economy and way of life."

"The Compact is an enduring example of what our region can accomplish when we work together to protect the Great Lakes," said Molly Flanagan, Vice President for Programs for the Alliance for the Great Lakes. "The Compact is working to protect the lakes from diversion threats from other parts of the country and the world. We must remain vigilant to ensure that the Great Lakes states are each doing their part to uphold the Compact and protect the lakes at home."

This month marks the fifteenth anniversary of former President Bush signing into law the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. The eight-state water management pact-known as the Compact-protects the nation's largest surface fresh water resource from depletion and diversions. A companion agreement, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement, was signed in December 2005 by the Governors of the Great Lakes states and Premiers of the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

Together, the Compact and Agreement required the eight Great Lakes states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and the two Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec to develop water conservation and efficiency goals and programs for all users, created and implemented comprehensive water management programs and established baselines for water use.

Since enacted in 2008, the Great Lakes Compact has faced challenges to its strength and effectiveness. In 2016, the eight Great Lakes states voted to approve Waukesha, Wisconsin's Lake Michigan diversion request. After a rigorous process that involved multiple revisions, multiple changes and robust public participation, the Compact Council made several changes and approved Waukesha's proposal with conditions. Ultimately, the Great Lakes Governors showed that the Great Lakes Compact works and ensured that the first diversion proposal met the high standards of the Compact.

The Great Lakes contain more than 90 percent of the fresh surface water in the United States, and 20 percent of the world's supply. Seemingly abundant, less than 1 percent of the Great Lakes water is renewed each year. This leaves the health of the lakes vulnerable to diversion and unwise use.

The National Wildlife Federation and the Alliance for the Great Lakes and many other regional and state conservation organizations played major roles for over five years of negotiations, three years of making its way through each of the Great Lakes states and provinces, and final passage in Congress. This process enjoyed an unprecedented level of cooperation among state and provincial leaders in developing the Compact and Agreement and working with numerous and diverse stakeholders to finally enact this Agreement.