Great Lakes Region to Hold on to its Water

July 20, 2004

A draft of the Great Lakes Charter Annex, drawn up by the eight Great Lakes governors and the premiers of Ontario and Quebec would make diverting large amounts of water from the Great Lakes to thirsty users outside the region would be "all but impossible," Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Currently, the Great Lakes contain 95 percent of the United States' supply of fresh surface water.

Reg. Gilbert of Great Lakes United, an international coalition dedicated to preserving and restoring the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River ecosystem said, "This is an all but impossible bar to a [major] diversion."

Under the proposed rules, diversions outside the basin of more than 1 million gallons a day would require unanimous approval of the eight governors. Inside the basin, diversion of more than 5 million gallons a day would need 6-2 approval, and smaller withdrawals inside the basin would be subject to new restrictions set by the states, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Noah Hall of the National Wildlife Federation said, "A new power plant or major expansion of a power plant might go over the threshold [of 5 million gallons]."

Another requirement for long-distance diversions is that all water must be returned, with allowances for evaporation.

At present, a request for water can be denied by any Great Lakes governor, a practice that might not withstand a legal challenge, but an outright ban on withdrawals was not considered for fear it would be legally indefensible, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

"We have to develop a reasonable standard," said Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, co-chair of the Council of Great Lakes Governors.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times