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Canada-U.S. International Joint Commission

Lake Erie 2007 State of the Strait pdf report

Lake Ontario proposed water level plans: view the documents

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada and their partners' 2008 biennial plans on each of the five Great Lakes.

U.S. congressional Great Lakes Task Force

Northeast Midwest Institute Great Lakes Program


Great Lakes Water Issues



Great Lakes water levels rebound after receding for a decade

Great Lakes water levels fell in recent years, a trend that hammered the maritime industry and even fed conspiracy theories about plots to drain the inland seas that make up nearly one-fifth of the world's fresh surface water. The three biggest lakes -- Superior, Huron and Michigan -- have risen steadily since fall 2007, when for a couple of months Superior's levels were the lowest on record and the others nearly so. Erie, shallowest of the lakes, actually exceeded its long-term average in June. So did Lake Ontario, although its level is determined more by artificial structures than nature. The lakes follow cycles, rising and falling over time. Scientists say it's a natural process with environmental benefits, such as replenishing coastal wetlands. But extreme ups or downs can wreak havoc for people. During the mid-1980s, levels got so high that houses, businesses and even sections of roads were swept away along Lake Michigan's southeastern shoreline. Then a sudden, deep drop-off began in the late 1990s. Traverse City Record-Eagle_ 7/21/09

Canada, U.S. to update Great Lakes water pact

The Canadian and U.S. governments will update the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to "preserve the needs of our shared ecosystem," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Saturday during a visit to Niagara Falls. Clinton made the announcement during a ceremony in which she joined Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon at the Rainbow Bridge to mark the 100th anniversary of the Canada-U.S. Boundary Waters Treaty. Activists have long pushed for changes to the Great Lakes agreement to account for new environmental challenges such as invasive species, climate change, and new chemicals and contamination. CTV_ 6/13/09

Study: Ice jam caused Great Lake water levels to drop

A steady drop in water levels in Lake Michigan/Huron over the first half of this decade resulted from natural causes, not man-made ones, according to U.S. and Canadian researchers, noting that the past 18 months of rising waters could be an indication the lakes are headed back to normal levels. Researchers working for the International Joint Commission this week released the findings of a two-year study on the St. Clair River and the amount of water running through it out of Lake Michigan/Huron. For years, many blamed the water loss on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and dredging work the agency performed on the St. Clair River bed in the early 1960s to broaden and deepen the channel for better navigation. Detroit News_ 5/2/09

Lake Michigan water levels rebounding

Two snowy winters in a row have made a dramatic impact. Just two years ago, the water level on Lake Michigan fell to within three inches of tying the historic low set in 1964. Today the lake is up more than a foot-and-a-half. "That's a huge amount of water when you spread it out over the entire Lake Michigan area," Tom Johnson of the US Army Corps of Engineers said, "so we've come up a lot in the last two winters, and we're expecting it to rise three to four inches yet this spring." It's thanks to melting snow and rising rivers throughout the Great Lakes basin. WBAY_ 3/25/09

Great Lakes water level sensitive to climate change

The water level in the Great Lakes has varied by only about two meters during the last century, helping them to play a vital role in the region's shipping, fishing, recreation and power generation industries. But new evidence by scientists from the University of Rhode Island and colleagues in the U.S. and Canada, published recently in the journal Eos, indicates that the water level in the lake system is highly sensitive to climate changes. The climate and water levels in the Great Lakes region are determined by the interplay of three air masses: dry, cold Arctic air from the North, dry warm Pacific air from the West, and warm, moist tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico. The scientists found that during the period when lake levels receded significantly, the dry air from the Arctic and Pacific was dominant. Later, when precipitation from the tropical air mass became more frequent, the Great Lakes began to flow from one to another as they do today. URI geological oceanographer John King led the study with URI visiting scientist Michael Lewis, emeritus scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada. Science Daily_ 1/13/09

Rising levels for Great Lakes reported

Great Lakes water levels are on the rise again after a decade of losses.  Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predict levels in the Great Lakes will be higher in the first half of 2009 than they were in 2008 -- the second year in a row the water will have risen, if estimates prove true.  U.S. Army Corps officials attribute the rising lake levels to rainfall and snowfall, particularly storm systems that bring in water from outside the Great Lakes Basin. Locally generated storms or lake effect systems simply redistribute water that is already in the Great Lakes. Systems from outside the region bring in new water -- water that can add to the lake levels.  From a historic low in the summer of 2007, Lake Superior should reach a level that is more than a foot higher by June. The Lake Michigan/Huron system should be up nearly half a foot from 2007, and Lake St. Clair could have risen by 2 inches since that time.   The Detroit News_1/7/09

November, 2008

Separate Great Lakes, Mississippi basin waters: Conservation group

A report released today by the Alliance for the Great Lakes asks the federal government to explore replumbing the river systems just below Lake Michigan to once again separate the waters of the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River basin. The two systems were not connected until Chicagoans linked them by canal more than a century ago. That project reversed the flow of the Chicago River to flush the city's sewage away from Lake Michigan, the city's source of drinking water, and into the Mississippi River basin. A secondary benefit was that it created a shipping lane between the two grand drainages. Now, armed with data from a $110,000 study funded by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and Great Lakes Fishery Trust, the Alliance for the Great Lakes says it's time to look at severing that link. It could be a massive undertaking, and it would mean disrupting barge traffic and likely require significant sewage treatment upgrades in Chicago, because at least some of the city's treated waste would begin to flow back into Lake Michigan. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel_ 11/11/08

Great Lakes compact opens door for bottled water

Yesterday, Congress ratified the Great Lakes Compact, which prevents the diversion of fresh water from the lakes by any state that does not immediately border them. The bill is supposed to protect the largest source of fresh water in the country (90 percent of America's fresh water and 20 percent of the world's) and also to encourage other states to conserve water.  It sounds good—but there's a catch. A loophole in the bill waives the diversion ban for any container less than 5.7 gallons. That means that the bottled water industry is off the hook and will have no restrictions on the amount of water it repackages in bottles made with oil and then resells at thousands of times the water's value.  There's no limit to how much water private bottlers can take, so environmental lawyers have warned that the compact paves the way for the "privatization" of our water sources. According to Food and Water Watch, the compact excludes the public-trust doctrine, which "affirms that water is a public resource that must be managed by the state governments in trust for the benefit of citizens." The compact instead refers to the water as a "product."  "As long as the water is considered a product, it establishes a precedent that water can be grabbed by profit-hungry corporations who want to claim it is a product not subject to the compact," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch. "This undermines the very purpose of the compact and creates a dangerous precedent for exporting water in the United States, in this instance from the largest body of fresh water in North America." 

US News_9/24/08

Great Lakes compact gets swift approval by Congress

Congress has made the Great Lakes compact official. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the eight-state agreement, which protects the lakes from diversion, by a vote of 390-25 shortly after noon today. President George W. Bush has already said he will sign it into law. “Today will go down in history as the time we spared the Great Lakes from death by a thousand straws,” said Cameron Davis, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes in Chicago. Among other things, the compact allows any governor to veto a large-scale diversion outside the basin. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, asked his colleagues Monday not to approve the measure because he said it has loopholes that could allow limitless amounts of bottled water to be exported beyond the Great Lakes basin. Legal experts said those fears are unfounded and that there are ways each state can regulate water bottling, as Michigan does. Detroit Free Press_ 9/23/08

U.S. Congress nears ban on diverting water from Great Lakes

The House began debate Monday on a sweeping bill that would ban almost any diversion of water from the Great Lakes’ natural basin to places outside the region. The measure is intended to put to rest longstanding fears that parched states or even foreign countries could do long-term damage to the basin by tapping into its tremendous body of fresh water. The bill, which would also put in place strict conservation rules for the eight states that border the lakes, is expected to win House approval, perhaps as soon as Tuesday. It has already been passed by the Senate, and the Bush administration has signaled its support. (The Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, which also border the lakes, have adopted a nearly identical document.) But some members of the House say the pact is not strong enough to protect the lakes, which together account for 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water. Among the dissenters is Representative Bart Stupak, Democrat of Michigan, who complained Monday about an exception that would allow bottled water to be shipped outside the basin, among other management issues. New York Times_ 9/22/08 (logon required)

Ohio senators, Cleveland mayor call for federal funds to restore Lake Erie and other Great Lakes

U.S. Senators George Voinovich and Sherrod Brown, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, and area state lawmakers, joined local businesses, environmental-conservation groups and citizens endorsed a "back-to-school lesson plan" for cleaning up and restoring the Great Lakes. The plan calls on presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress to commit $20 billion over five years to restore the Great Lakes as outlined in the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy -- a comprehensive clean-up plan endorsed by citizens, industry, mayors, governors and the region's congressional delegation.

Included in this "lesson plan" is a call to quickly pass the following legislation in Congress:

-- Ballast water management legislation to keep destructive invasive species out of the lakes

-- Great Lakes Legacy Act to clean up toxic pollution in 26 Areas of Concern

-- Clean Water Restoration Act to protect an estimated 115,000 miles of streams and numerous isolated wetlands

-- Great Lakes Compact to prohibit the exportation of Great Lakes water out of the region and to ensure the sustainable use of water within the lakes. News Release/Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition/PRNewsWire_ 8/29/08

U.S. Senate gives quick approval to Great Lakes water compact staff report

Aug. 1, 2008

The Senate Friday gave unanimous consent to passage of the Great Lakes water compact, only 10 days after the measure was introduced. The House also must approve the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Basin Resources Compact, which is intended to keep water from being shipped to users far from the lakes. Presdent Bush has urged Congress to pass joint resolution S.J. Res. 45. It was introduced July 23 by Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich) and George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio). “Senate passage of this Compact will help us protect the Great Lakes from water diversions and preserve this invaluable resource for future generations," said Levin. Sensible conservation goals in water use will ensure that our children and great grandchildren benefit from the Great Lakes as we do." Added Voinovich, “the best way we can preserve and protect (the Great Lakes) is by passing and enacting the Great Lakes Compact and keeping control of the lakes in the hands of the states that surround them and value them the most." In 2000, Congress passed legislation directing the governors of the Great Lakes states – Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – to negotiate a water management agreement. In 2005, the eight Great Lakes governors, in coordination with the Canadian Premiers of Ontario and Quebec, completed negotiations on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. The House of Representatives is expected to consider the joint resolution when it reconvenes in September.

President Bush backs ban on Great Lakes water diversion

President Bush urged Congress on Monday to ratify a compact to ban diversions from the Great Lakes. "The compact will ensure sustainable use and responsible management of waters from the Great Lakes Basin and preserve the Great Lakes for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations," the president said in a statement that was the first to confirm that he will sign the legislation once it reaches him. The Senate and House Judiciary committees have scheduled hearings for Wednesday, signaling that the legislation is on a fast track. Detroit News_ 7/29/08

Extra 3 trillion gallons of water in Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan's water level has risen 8 inches above the same period a year ago. Once just 6 to 12 inches above all-time lows, lake levels are up in response to the same downpours that caused many area rivers to flood. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which monitors the Great Lakes, predicts the higher levels are to hold through the coming months, though, barring new waves of heavy rains, the biggest rises have probably already occurred. Interconnected Lakes Michigan and Huron are unlikely to change significantly in the next month. The corps reports other Great Lakes have experienced increased levels as well, with Lake Superior 16 inches higher than a year ago. The rise in Lake Michigan means the lake has added approximately 3.12 trillion gallons since a year ago. Chicago Tribune_ 7/25/08

U.S. Senators Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) introduce Great Lakes Compact bill

Levin and Voinovich – co-chairs of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force – today introduced legislation to ratify the Great Lakes Compact, a bipartisan agreement among the Great Lakes states to protect the Great Lakes through better water management, conservation and public involvement. The legislation is the next step towards the Great Lakes—St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact becoming law because it must be ratified by Congress. In 2000, Congress passed legislation directing the Great Lakes Governors to negotiate a water management agreement. In 2005, the Great Lakes Governors, in coordination with the Canadian Premiers of Ontario and Quebec, completed negotiations of the eight-state Great Lakes—St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. The Council of Great Lakes Governors was tasked with creating the Great Lakes Compact and is a partnership of the governors of the eight Great Lakes states – Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – and the Canadian provincial premiers of Ontario and Quebec. The Compact, which will manage water diversions, withdrawals and consumptive use proposals, has been approved by the eight state legislatures and must be consented to by Congress to achieve full force and effect as an interstate compact. News Release_ 7/23/08

Great Lakes states are right to protect water from dry regions: McCain

Republican presidential candidate John McCain says Wisconsin and other Great Lakes states are right to protect their water from dry regions such as his home state of Arizona. McCain told The Associated Press in an interview after a Michigan campaign stop in suburban Detroit today that he supports the Great Lakes compact. McCain says he can’t envision a scenario in which Great Lakes water would be shipped elsewhere. McCain is among more than 20 members of Congress who have endorsed the compact, as has Democratic presidential candidate and fellow Sen. Barack Obama. The Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec have adopted a nearly identical document. They could not join the compact because U.S. states cannot make treaties with foreign governments. AP/Green Bay Press-Gazette_ 7/10/08

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm last to  sign off on Greak Lakes protection pact; Plan now goes to Congress

With the stroke of Gov. Jennifer Granholm's pen Wednesday at a Saugatuck beach, Michigan, which calls itself the Great Lakes State, became the last of eight states to formally approve a compact to protect the Great Lakes from having their water diverted to other regions. The measure now goes to Congress, possibly by the end of the month. Advocates are hoping it could be ratified by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush yet this year, said David Naftzger, executive director of the Council of Great Lakes Governors. It is expected to go to the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, and a transportation committee whose chairman is Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota. Oberstar is a key supporter of the compact. In the Senate, Naftzger said it's not clear where the measure would end up. Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland signed it June 27, and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell signed the measure July 4. The eight regional governors negotiated the compact in December 2005. Detroit Free Press_ 7/10/08

Great Lakes water pact nearing Congressional action

The Great Lakes water compact -- intended as a pre-emptive move to keep arid Southwestern states from viewing the Great Lakes as a solution to their water woes -- has been ratified by legislatures of all eight states adjacent to the water. Across the border, the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec have amended their statutes, aligning themselves with the water-management rules of the compact, which also covers the St. Lawrence River Basin. If the final governors also sign off, proponents say they are hopeful they also can secure Congressional approval. The compact bans new diversions of Great Lakes Basin water away from the basin. Exceptions are made for communities straddling the basin. "More than 20 members (of Congress) have already expressed their support for the compact," including presidential contenders John McCain and Barack Obama, said David Naftzger, executive director of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, a partnership created in 1983 to tackle environmental issues affecting the Great Lakes region. "We're hopeful that things will move forward quickly." Diversions outside of the Great Lakes Basin became a tangible concern in 1999 when a proposal emerged to take 160 million gallons of water a day out of Lake Superior and ship it to Asia. The proposal was rejected, but a firestorm of controversy erupted. Great Lakes states began wondering whether the U.S. Southwest would look to the Great Lakes as an answer to regional water scarcity. Wall Street Journal_ 7/9/08

Great Lakes states start planning for Congressional approval of water compact

Backers of a plan by Great Lakes states and Canada to protect the region's water from large-scale diversion projects are looking ahead to Congress now that it appears the proposal will win approval from all affected states. The need to protect the Great Lakes was driven home to border states in the 1990s when the Ontario government gave a Canadian shipping company permission to send tankers of Lake Superior water to Asia. That plan died, but it spurred state governments and Canadian authorities to agree on a plan to protect the lakes from similar diversions. Now that most states have approved the compact, backers are deciding how to win Congressional and White House approval. AP_ 6/29/08

Michigan legislative agreement would limit amount of water withdrawn from state

Michigan lawmakers announced an agreement Monday to regulate new, large-scale withdrawals of water from the state -- a deal expected to clear the way for Gov. Jennifer Granholm to sign an eight-state compact to prevent diversion of water outside the Great Lakes basin. The agreement, reached after two years of negotiations among legislators and business and environmental leaders, limits withdrawals of more than 1 million gallons a day, by manufacturers, bottlers, farmers or others. The deal was announced by state Sen. Patty Birkholz, R-Saugatuck, and Rep. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, along with the business and environmental groups involved. With that logjam apparently cleared, Granholm is also expected to soon receive legislation authorizing Michigan's participation in the regional compact on Great Lakes water. The compact has been approved by five states, and Ohio's governor has indicated he will sign a bill from his legislature agreeing to join. That would leave only Michigan and Pennsylvania to sign. Detroit Free Press_ 6/24/08

Ohio's Senate OKs the Great Lakes compact

After a two-year holdup, state lawmakers moved Tuesday to make Ohio the sixth state to approve an agreement aimed at protecting the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Compact, a framework between eight states and two Canadian provinces, would prevent most diversions of water from the lakes' basin to arid states in the South and Southwest. Ohio had been a major obstacle to the pact because of a disagreement over whether the plan would inadvertently violate property rights for groundwater on privately owned land. House Speaker Jon Husted, a Republican, and Democratic Minority Leader Joyce Beatty reached a deal Monday to affirm private property rights and set the stage for Tuesday's vote. Gov. Ted Strickland has said he will sign it. Two more states, Michigan and Pennsylvania, still are considering the compact. Once the plan clears the remaining two states, Congress will need to approve it to take effect. AP/Detroit Free Press_ 6/11/08

Ohio agreement to join Great Lakes water plan stalls again

A plan to remove Ohio as the last roadblock to finishing an agreement among the Great Lakes states to protect their water ran into a barrier on Thursday -- again. The Ohio House fell short by two votes of passing a plan to ask voters to approve protections for property owners regarding the use of water on their land. The Senate feels the protections are crucial to joining seven other states and two Canadian provinces in a pact to try to keep arid states from siphoning water from the Great Lakes. After the deal fell apart in the House, the Senate refused to consider a bill authorizing Ohio to join the coalition. The House has twice in the last four years voted to OK the deal, only to see it fail in the Senate. Lawmakers left open the possibility of another vote on June 10. The Great Lakes Compact is crucial to protect the lakes, its backers say. Without it, the states leave themselves vulnerable to poaching by thirsty states like Arizona and California, they say. The compact would take effect only upon passage of legislation in each of the states and by Congress. It would prohibit most new water diversion besides natural drainage, require each state to develop a conservation plan and establish a regional council to hear disputes. AP/MLive.com_ 5/30/08

Wisconsin governor signs Great Lakes water compact

Gov. Jim Doyle signed an interstate treaty today to prevent arid states from taking water from the Great Lakes, which he says are important to Wisconsin's economy and way of life. Wisconsin became the fifth state to ratify the Great Lakes Compact when Doyle acted during a ceremony along Milwaukee's Lake Michigan shoreline. The eight Great Lakes governors signed the compact in 2005 after four years of negotiations. They fear booming southwestern states will soon look to take massive amounts of water from the lakes. But all eight Great Lakes states must approve the compact and Congress must ratify it before it can become law. Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and New York also have approved it, while Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania have yet to do so. The Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario have approved the deal as well.   AP/Pioneer Press_ 5/27/08

Midwest's message: Hands off our lakes

Piece by piece, a 5,500-mile wall around the Great Lakes is going up. You can't see it, but construction is progressing nicely, along with an implied neon sign that flashes, "Hands off—it's our water." The legal pilings for a 1,000-mile segment of the wall are scheduled to be sunk Tuesday when Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle finalizes his state's approval of the so-called Great Lakes Compact, a multistate agreement designed to protect and restrict access to nearly 20 percent of the world's supply of fresh water, contained in the five Great Lakes. After that will come Ohio, where later this week the legislature is expected to make it the sixth state to endorse the water agreement and advance a strong regional warning to chronically dry regions of the South and West that Great Lakes water is staying here. In some regards, water is the new oil and the governors of the states adjacent to the Great Lakes are the new OPEC, jealously guarding a resource that will be a big part of their future. Chicago Tribune_ 5/27/08

Uranium producer warns Canada of Lake Ontario pollution

Cameco, the world’s largest uranium producer, has told the Canadian nuclear regulator that its refinery might have leaked uranium, arsenic and fluorides into Lake Ontario. The plant at Port Hope, Ontario, across the lake from Rochester and down the shore from Toronto, first refined uranium for the Manhattan Project during World War II. It has been temporarily closed since July to remove contaminated soil. A spokesman for Cameco, Lyle Krahn, said Wednesday that a computer model created for the cleanup, which is several months behind schedule, indicated that the radioactive and toxic materials have been polluting a harbor adjacent to the factory. The harbor leads directly to the lake. The company notified the regulatory agency, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, about the finding at a meeting last week and now plans drilling tests to confirm the contamination and to measure its extent. New York Times_ 5/22/08 (logon required)

Harsh winter of 2008 helps Great Lakes water levels

Above average snowfall and prolonged ice cover on the lakes this past winter caused Lake Michigan's water level to rise six inches in April, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Lake levels typically rise in the spring, when melting snow increases the volume of water draining off the land and into the lakes. But the rise this April on Lake Michigan was double the average, said Keith Kompoltowicz, a Corps of Engineers meteorologist. Lake Michigan's water level this summer should be five to eight inches higher than last summer, according to the Corps' forecast. The lake level remains 15 inches below its long-term average, according to government data. The lakes began to rise in January after falling steadily over the past decade. Lake Michigan last summer was 44 inches below its 1998 water level. Lake Superior hit a record low last year and Lake Michigan came within five inches of meeting the record low set in 1964. The sinking lakes prompted the International Joint Commission, which mediates border issues with Canada, to launch a $15 million study of water levels in lakes Michigan, Huron, Superior and Erie. Researchers are studying whether actions are needed to stabilize lake levels over the next 40 years. One focus of the study is whether dredging in the St. Clair River over the past century has created an abnormally large drain hole that caused water levels in lakes Michigan and Huron to plummet in recent years. In 2006, a privately funded study claimed dredging widened and deepened the St. Clair River, lowering water levels in lakes Michigan and Huron by about 15 inches. Muskegon Chronicle/MLive_ 5/20/08

U.S. Senators Levin and Voinovich introduce legislation to limit phosphates in dishwashing detergent; Great Lakes protection one chief goal

Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio) today introduced legislation to limit the use of phosphates in automatic dish detergents, which would help to reduce phosphates that wreak havoc on aquatic plants and fish in the Great Lakes and other waters. The Levin-Voinovich bill would limit the use of phosphates in residential dish detergent by requiring the EPA, beginning in 2010, to ban the sale of residential dish washing detergent that has more than 0.5% phosphorous nationally. A 2003 Minnesota study, updated in 2007, estimated that dishwashing detergent accounts for nearly 19 percent of the total amount of phosphorus entering municipal wastewater systems each year. Advances in detergent formulation in recent decades have allowed many companies to produce phosphate-free automatic dish detergents that work as effectively as those containing phosphates. Excess amounts of phosphorus in water-bodies accelerate a process known as eutrophication, or the rapid growth of algae, which can become so dense that they block submerged aquatic vegetation’s access to light, which restricts their ability to photosynthesize and survive. As algae blooms and takes over the remaining light and kills submerged aquatic vegetation, bacteria consume the dead vegetation, which deprives the water-body of its remaining oxygen. Thirteen states plus the District of Columbia, including Michigan and Ohio, have either passed legislation or have legislation pending that would ban phosphates in automatic dish detergent in 2010. A few states, including Washington, Massachusetts, and Maryland, have already adopted a restriction on phosphates in residential dish detergents. News Eelease_ 5/15/08

Michigan Senate approves bill managing lake water withdrawals

The Michigan Senate has approved a bill managing large-scale withdrawals from the state's lakes and inland waterways. The legislation is contained in a package of bills that would give Michigan's approval to a regional compact to prevent Great Lakes water from being sent to dry regions. Lawmakers favor the compact but disagree over state-specific water rules. The Senate bill now heads to the House. It's looking increasingly likely a compromise will have to be hammered out in a conference committee. AP/Chicago Tribune_ 5/15/08

U.S. Senators Carl Levin and George Voinovich introduce Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2008

Levin, D-Mich., and Voinovich, R-Ohio, co-chairmen of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, today introduced the bipartisan Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2008 to expand on legislation passed six years ago. The bill authorizes $150 million a year to clean up contaminated expanses in the Great Lakes known as “Areas of Concern” within 10 years. Forty-three Areas of Concern have been identified in the Great Lakes, 13 of which are in Michigan and four in Ohio. These sites do not meet the water quality goals established by the United States and Canada in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, mainly because of contaminated sediments from historic industrial activity. News Release_ 5/8/08

Meeting on Great Lakes water levels: Don't tamper with nature

A $15 million International Upper Great Lakes Study, funded by the International Joint Commission, is examining whether actions are needed to stabilize sinking water levels in lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron. Water levels in all three lakes are well below long-term averages, according to government data. Despite that, few of the 75 people attending the meeting Saturday at Grand Valley State University's Annis Water Resources Institute called for a quick fix to an issue that is scientifically complex and emotionally charged. Great Lakes water levels fluctuate slightly from year to year and more widely over roughly 30-year cycles. Over the past decade, water levels in lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior have been on a steady decline and are within a few inches of record lows, according to federal data. A team of U.S. and Canadian scientists are studying whether the plunging lake levels are the result of weather changes -- warmer air temperatures, less precipitation and more evaporation -- or manmade changes in the lakes. A focal point is whether dredging in the St. Clair River over the past century has created an abnormally large drain hole for lakes Michigan and Huron, causing water levels to drop like a rock in recent years. The IJC, a U.S.-Canadian panel that mediates Great Lakes issues, will issue its report on the St. Clair River controversy in June 2009. Kalamazoo Gazette/MILive_ 5/4/08

April, 2008

American Indians walk around Lake Michigan: 'Our water is not for sale'
A group of American Indians has been walking around most of Lake Michigan this spring to focus public attention on the intrinsic value of water. The sixth annual Mother Earth Water Walk continues through May 12. "The important thing we want to tell people is that our water is not for sale, it's for us to use respectfully," said Josephine Mandamin, an Ojibway Indian from Ontario who co-founded the walk. "It is important to keep our waters clean to ensure the everlasting use for our grandchildren and their grandchildren." The walk, which involves carrying a pail of water around Lake Michigan, will cover 583 miles and cross parts of Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. For Mandamin and another American Indian grandmother who started the Mother Earth Water Walk in 2003, this year's trek will complete a roughly 6,000-mile walk around all five Great Lakes. Mandamin said the walk was inspired by an Anishnabe tribal chief who prophesied in the 1970s that water would be as valuable as gold by the early 21st century unless steps were taken to protect water quality and quantity. She said the journey is a symbolic attempt to call attention to the threats facing the Great Lakes and other fresh waters. Muskegon Chronicle/mlive.com_ 4/28/08

U.S.-Canada plans to protect five Great Lakes now available

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada and their partners have issued the 2008 biennial plans on each of the five Great Lakes. These comprehensive, environmental plans provide lake-by-lake details on the steps needed to ensure protection, restoration and environmental maintenance of Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario, according to an EPA news release. The Lakewide Management Plans outline the environmental status of each lake, highlight successes, identify problems and propose solutions. The plans are called for by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the United States and Canada to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Great Lakes. They are collaborative efforts of the state, federal, tribal and provincial governments, and organizations with an interest in the lakes. News Release_ 4/24/08

download the plans

U.S., Canada treaty would preserve water in Great Lakes

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle called a special legislative session on Wednesday to approve an interstate treaty designed to prevent parched states from taking water out of the Great Lakes.  Four states and two Canadian provinces have approved the Great Lakes Compact. Wisconsin legislators have been at loggerheads over the treaty, though, with Republicans complaining the compact's language was rushed and gave too much power to other Great Lakes governors.  But legislators announced Wednesday they had hammered out a compromise. Doyle ordered them into special session beginning April 17 to vote on the deal.  "Through a lot of hard work, through a lot of co-operation, through some real persistence, we are ready in Wisconsin to pass the Great Lakes Compact," Doyle said at a news conference.  "By doing so we will protect the asset that defines who we are geographically."  Eight governors signed the compact in 2005 after four years of talks. They were driven by fears that booming Southwestern states would try to pull water out of the lakes, which hold 90 per cent of the fresh surface water in the United States.  The compact would allow a single Great Lakes governor to block any request to use lake water.  It also sets out new guidelines for municipalities in the Great Lakes basin to draw water and encourages water conservation.  All the Great Lakes states and Congress must ratify the treaty before it can take effect. Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and New York have signed the treaty into law. So has Quebec and Ontario.  Timmins Daily Press_4/10/08

Plan for Lake Ontario water level draws fire from environmentalists

A long-awaited plan to control water levels in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River is a major disappointment, environmentalists say. The plan, unveiled yesterday by the Canada-U.S. International Joint Commission after five years of study and $20 million, will lead to only minor changes in a system that has caused major damage over the past half-century, said Mark Mattsen, of Lake Ontario Waterkeepers. "This is the status quo, with some very tiny changes," he said in an interview. Dams at Cornwall, Ont., and Massena, N.Y., control how much water flows out of the lake into the St. Lawrence. Over the past 50 years, it has been a balancing act. The Great Lakes shipping industry demands stable, high levels for its vessels. Ontario Power Generation and other utilities wants to avoid low levels that would cut production at their hydroelectric stations. Lakefront property owners like lower, stable levels to prevent storm and flood damage. Environmentalists have called for measures to mimic natural fluctuations in the level. They had hoped that's what the commission would endorse in its new control order. Diminishing the cycle of high water in spring and low water in fall has destroyed marshes, wetlands and other natural features that support a wide variety of fish, birds and animals, they say. But the commission, given three options, rejected one that would have permitted fluctuations of up to 30 centimetres and, instead, picked one that will produce changes most people won't notice. The commission was established by Canada and the U.S. in 1909 to solve boundary water issues. Its proposed order is open for comment for three months and must be approved by both governments. Toronto Star_ 3/29/08

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Federal funding for Great Lakes-St. Lawrence restoration lags far behind local investment, new report finds

A report released today by the Great Lakes Commission and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (Cities Initiative) and funded by the Joyce Foundation, concludes that local governments in the U.S. and Canada invest an estimated $15 billion annually to protect and restore the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, but cannot keep pace with the one-two punch of escalating threats to the resource and ongoing cuts in federal restoration programs. “This report clearly demonstrates that our cities and other communities are ready and willing partners in the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence ecosystem,” said Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry, chair of the Great Lakes Commission. “Their contributions at the local level play a key role in the environmental health and well-being of the entire system, and they need and deserve federal support in those efforts." The report is expected to build support in the United States for federal legislation to implement recommendations of the 2005 Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes – the product of a year-long initiative among federal, state and local governments, tribes and other stakeholders that was established by a presidential executive order. Among the Strategy’s foremost recommendations to protect and restore the Great Lakes is increased federal investment in storm-and wastewater treatment, to supplement the substantial local investment documented in the report. News Release_ 2/27/08

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle turns up heat to get Great Lakes water compact passed

Speaking near the shore of Lake Michigan at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's WATER Institute, Doyle accused Assembly leadership of playing political games with what he considers Wisconsin's best chance to both protect and capitalize on the state's grandest natural resource. The compact is an agreement all eight Great Lakes governors signed in Milwaukee over two years ago that essentially blocks new water diversions outside the Great Lakes basin, with limited exceptions for communities and counties that straddle the basin dividing line. The compact requires approval from all state legislatures and Congress before it becomes law, and has already been approved by four state legislatures. Journal-Sentinel_ 2/22/08

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signs Great Lakes water-use compact

The measure allows Indiana to join a regional compact intended to prevent water-needy states from tapping into the Great Lakes. The General Assembly had passed the bill that protects water from being siphoned out of the watershed surrounding the five Great Lakes to drought-stricken states or areas that need water for growth. Indiana lies in the Lake Michigan and Lake Erie watersheds. After all the affected states enact it, Congress must ratify it. Minnesota and Illinois have also ratified the agreement. The Ohio House signed off on a version of the compact on Tuesday and sent it to the Senate, which is set to begin hearings. Some Ohio Senate leaders said they are concerned that the wording of the bill opens up private property across the northern part of that state to government control. The Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec have approved separate but similar agreements. AP/Louisville Courier-Journal_ 2/21/08

Regional plan to protect U.S. Great Lakes water hitting a snag

Two Great Lakes states have balked at an agreement that would keep outsiders from siphoning off the lakes' water, raising fears that the long-sought water plan could be in danger. Proponents tried Monday to regain momentum for the water-use agreement, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. Unless the eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces abutting the lakes unanimously enact the agreement, it will be non-binding. The pact also needs to be approved by the U.S. and Canada governments. Building that kind of consensus is difficult. It took governors and resources advocates more than four years just to write the Great Lakes water-use plan in 2005, then years more for a handful of state legislatures to sign on. Only Illinois and Minnesota have ratified the pact. This month, Indiana and New York entered the home stretch after the plan was approved by the legislatures and is awaiting the governors' signatures. But last week, proponents say, Wisconsin and Ohio threw a wrench in the works. Chicago Tribune_ 2/18/08

More Great Lakes cleanup needed

The Great Lakes are less polluted than in the past, but U.S. efforts to improve water quality are hampered by unclear lines of responsibility and inadequate funding, a witness told lawmakers Wednesday. "The future of the Great Lakes is uncertain," said Irene Brooks, acting chair of the U.S. section of the International Joint Commission. The commission, made up of U.S. and Canadian members, works to resolve and prevent disputes between the two countries on the Great Lakes and rivers that straddle their borders. The Great Lakes basin includes parts of eight states and two Canadian provinces. "Our view is that to speed up the cleanup, accountability is paramount," Brooks told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. The panel plans to consider legislation to toughen water-quality standards for the Great Lakes and authorize more money to control industrial pollution, wastewater discharges, agricultural runoff and invasive species, and to tackle contaminated sediments in the harbors along the lakes. Brooks said the United States and Canada must make "a bold commitment" to improve water quality and ensure that fish, water and beaches are safe. Detroit Free Press_ 1/27/08

Lake Erie's water level could plunge 3-6 feet as Earth's temperature rises

In a three-year study of the Detroit River-western Lake Erie corridor released earlier this month, 75 scientists from nearly 50 government, business, academic, and public-interest groups claimed Lake Erie could drop 3.28 feet to 6.56 feet of water by 2066. The lake’s western basin is the region’s shallowest. The 315-page report, “State of the Strait: Status and Trends of Key Indicators 2007” says as the lake shrinks, western Lake Erie’s shoreline could expand by more than 19,685 feet, or nearly 4 miles, potentially wreaking havoc upon the shipping industry and facilities communities need for treating water. Toledo Blade_ 1/7/08

Download the full 2007 State of the Strait pdf report


Michigan legislators move to  protect Great Lakes water from being shipped elsewhere

Michigan legislators moved a step closer to enacting a measure that could prevent states outside the region from raiding the area's most valuable resource -- the Great Lakes. Committees in the Senate and House approved the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact on Wednesday. The legislation, once approved by all eight of the Great Lakes states and the U.S. Congress, would put authority over water diversions in the hands of those states. Illinois and Minnesota have passed the Great Lakes compact, while New York officials are closing in on full approval. The remaining states are at various stages in the process. Similar legislation is in the works on the Canadian side of the lakes in Ottawa and Quebec. Detroit News_ 12/6/07

Great Lakes water compact backers, foes in Ohio stand ground on water diversion

Ohio’s dilemma about a proposed regional compact that would limit Great Lakes water withdrawals has come down to how legislators view state Sen. Tim Grendell’s argument that it could intrude upon private property rights. Gov. Ted Strickland continues to stand behind the proposal, even though he did not have a role in developing it. He is seen as a key political figure who can get legislators past objections raised last fall by Mr. Grendell, a Republican from Chesterland, Ohio, east of Cleveland. Even though the Ohio General Assembly appears unlikely to bring the measure up for another vote in 2007, Mr. Strickland’s support has not wavered since it was disclosed in February that he would endorse it as written, according to Mr. Dailey. The proposal, agreed upon in principle by Great Lakes governors in December, 2005, after more than four years of research, comments, and revisions, would forbid large diversions or transfers of Great Lakes water without consent from a regional water body. That regional water group would be created if the proposed compact is ratified by each of the Great Lakes states and approved by Congress. The intent is to assert regional control over the lakes — the world’s largest source of fresh surface water — before spigots run so dry in other parts of the country that new efforts are mobilized to move the water well beyond the natural Great Lakes basin. Toledo Blade_ 11/19/07

Thirsty states, particularly in the West, eye Great Lakes' water

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democratic candidate for president, gave voice to his water lust this month by suggesting that water from the five Great Lakes could be piped to the rapidly growing -- and increasingly dry -- Southwest. "States like Wisconsin are awash in water," Richardson told the Las Vegas Sun. Richardson soon backed off after swift protests from the Midwest, including a resounding "no" from Michigan's Democratic Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm. That won't be the end of it. With fresh water supplies dwindling in the West and South, the Great Lakes are the natural-resource equivalent of the fat pension fund, and some politicians are eager to raid it. The lakes contain nearly 20% of the world's fresh water. Chicago Tribune/Los Angeles Times_ 10/28/07 (logon required)

Indiana environmental coalition urges lawmakers to help ban Great Lakes water diversion

A coalition of northwestern Indiana environmentalists and businesses are urging state lawmakers to approve a multistate Great Lakes agreement that would ban most diversions of water from the lakes to water-hungry states. State groups and supporters of the Great Lakes Compact expect to have legislation for the Indiana General Assembly to consider next spring. The proposed compact would ban — with limited exceptions — new and increased water diversions from the Great Lakes unless approved by the governors of the eight Great Lakes states and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Lawmakers in those states and provinces are considering approval of the agreement at a time when the Great Lakes’ water levels are near historic lows. And with droughts in the Southeast and Southwest, the pressure is growing to turn to the Great Lakes as a fresh water source. AP/News Sentinel_ 10/27/07

Dredging causes huge Great Lakes water loss, report says

Erosion caused by dredging and other human activities on the St. Clair River is causing Lakes Huron and Michigan to lose 2.5 billion gallons of water daily, says a private Canadian study released Tuesday. Like a bathtub drain, the artificially deepened river is funneling vast amounts of water into Lake Erie, where it flows east to Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River before eventually being lost to the Atlantic Ocean, the study says. Sponsored by the Georgian Bay Association, the report acknowledges that drought, evaporation and other factors have contributed to a steep dropoff in water levels on the three upper Great Lakes _ Huron, Michigan and Superior _ since the late 1990s. Huron and Michigan, considered hydrologically the same lake, are 21 inches below normal and Superior could hit a record low this fall. "But the erosion in the St. Clair River stands out among these problems as a man-made issue that can be corrected fairly easily and within a relatively short timetable," the report says. It suggests covering the eroding areas with rock and installing gates to regulate water flow southward from Lake Huron. U.S. officials said they were conducting a five-year study that would recommend what to do. The Canadian group and environmentalists in both nations said waiting that long would severely damage wetlands, fish habitat, water quality and Great Lakes cargo shipping. AP/The Times of Northwest Indiana_ 8/14/07

Lake Superior feeling the water pinch; World's biggest freshwater lake is down 16 trillion gallons in the past decade
All along its 1,800-mile coast, you can see land where there used to be water, CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports. In the past decade, Lake Superior has lost 2.5 feet in depth and at 18 inches below normal, the lake looks different — above and below the water level. At nearly 32,000 square miles, Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world. But water levels are down across the entire Great Lakes Basin, and experts are racing to find out why. Two big factors are a drought that is dumping 20 percent less rain into the lake, and warmer winter temperatures that mean less ice cover and more evaporation. "Within a couple of years, they should be rising again," said Doug Wilcox, ecologist and branch chief of the U.S. Geological Survey Great Lakes Science Center. "If they continue to go lower and lower, that would indicate to me that we're outside the bounds of the natural pattern." CBS_ 6/21/07

Minnesota is first to adopt Great Lakes compact on water use

Minnesota became the first state to adopt what's meant to be a multistate compact on Great Lakes water use on Tuesday when Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed legislation next to the Duluth harbor on Lake Superior. The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact isn't expected to have much effect on Minnesota since the state already has stricter regulations on water use and only about 15 percent of its area is part of a Great Lakes watershed. It could make a bigger difference in states such as Michigan and Wisconsin, which depend more on Great Lakes water. The compact would require states to approve any major water diversion outside the Great Lakes watershed and regulate new commercial uses of water. In some states, the agreement faces criticism from environmental groups who say it falls short of protecting the five lakes. On the other side of the issue, opponents in Ohio and Wisconsin argue that it could trump local control of water use and hurt industries and cities. The compact needs the approval of all eight Great Lakes states and Congress to take effect. Ontario and Quebec are also considering whether to sign on. AP/Star-Tribune_ 2/20/07

Minnesota could be first state to adopt Great Lakes water agreement

The Great Lakes Compact is intended to keep Great Lakes water in the Great Lakes. You can trace the compact back to the mid-1980s, when a coal company proposed to pipe Lake Superior water to Montana to feed a coal slurry pipeline. That never happened. But another idea almost did in 1999. A company wanted to fill tankers with Lake Superior water, and sell the water in Asia. Public outrage killed that project, but that scheme uncovered a weakness in federal law on water diversions. The Great Lakes Compact is a binding document between the eight Great Lakes states to adopt uniform state laws regulating water withdrawals. There's a similar process underway in Canada. Minnesota Public Radio_ 2/11/07


AP Special Report, Part II: Environmentalists: Stop Great Lakes damage before it happens

About five years before zebra mussels launched their invasion of the Great Lakes in the mid-1980s, Canadian researchers warned it was coming. But neither Canada nor the United States took steps to stop the tiny mollusk from hitchhiking to the lakes from Europe inside ballast tanks of oceangoing freighters. Now, controlling the pest costs taxpayers hundreds of millions a year. "The entire history of the Great Lakes is like that - suspecting a threat but not heeding the warning signs," says Cameron Davis, executive director of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. As both countries ponder the first significant update of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in nearly two decades, a coalition of environmentalist groups has developed a wide-ranging set of proposed improvements. Among them: adding to the agreement's list of bedrock principles the "precautionary approach," or trying to head off potential threats before they materialize instead of waiting to clean up the mess afterward. AP/Marion Star_ 12/26/06

Great Lakes water quality agreement faces uncertain future: Part 1

AP EDITOR'S NOTE: It's been more than three decades since Canada and the United States first approved the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. While the lakes and their major tributaries are less dirty today than when the agreement was signed in 1972, the waters face threats that were barely visible then. Now the two countries are considering whether to update and strengthen the accord. In a two-day series, The Associated Press examines the agreement's successes and shortcomings.

When Canada and the United States approved the first version of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 1972, the running joke in Cleveland was that anyone unlucky enough to fall into the Cuyahoga River would decay rather than drown. The Cuyahoga, which meanders through the city before reaching Lake Erie, helped inspire the cleanup initiative by literally catching fire three years earlier. AP/Canton Repository_ 12/24/06

Book Review: Engrossing book sheds light on Great Lakes water issues

THE GREAT LAKES WATER WARS. By Peter Annin. Island Press. 304 pages. $25.95
To those of us who have ever stood along the Great Lakes shoreline and given much thought to the seemingly endless sight of fresh water in front of us, it may be incomprehensible that this part of the country could ever have trouble quenching its thirst. But what we don't realize is that this region could become the battleground for an epic worldwide struggle in this century as the Earth's population continues to expand, its climate continues to change, and other water supplies continue to dry up or be rendered useless by pollution. Peter Annin gets it. Annin, who lives in Madison, Wis., walks readers through a detailed - albeit complex - history of projects intended to manipulate the lakes. Toledo Blade_ 12/17/06

Great Lakes compact at the center of great debate

A new multistate agreement working its way through state legislatures builds a legal wall around the largest source of fresh water in the world. The deal would ensure that no Great Lakes water is ever shipped outside the region — not in pipes to Arizona, not in ships to Asia, not even to Madison, Wis., or Columbus, Ohio. The Great Lakes Water Resources Compact was signed last December by the governors of the eight states that border the lakes — Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York — and the premiers of the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario. The agreement requires approval of state legislatures before it is sent to Congress for final approval. Ohio's Legislature is expected this week to become the first to approve the pact. New York's may approve it later this month. The Great Lakes contain nine-tenths of the nation's fresh water and supply drinking water to 30 million people in Chicago, Toronto, Buffalo and elsewhere. USA Today_ 12/10/06

Book: Great Lakes water fight to heat up

An era of warring over the Great Lakes is under way _ and will intensify as the global water shortage worsens. The region's way of life hangs in the balance as leaders grapple with how to preserve what amounts to nearly one-fifth of the world's fresh surface water. That is the premise of "The Great Lakes Water Wars" by Peter Annin, a former Newsweek Correspondent. The book is published by Island Press. Representatives of the eight Great Lakes states last year signed a compact to ban most diversions of water outside the drainage basin, require each state to regulate water use and establish a regional standard for large-scale water withdrawals. The Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec pledged separately to adopt the same policies. But the compact still faces an uphill climb, needing approval of legislatures in each state and the U.S. Congress. AP/Houston Chronicle_ 10/7/06

Low water in North America's Great Lakes causes worry

Water levels in North America's five Great Lakes -- Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario -- declined in 1998 and have remained low, forcing ships to take on lighter loads and sparking concern about shorelines and wetlands in the Great Lakes, the world's largest supply of freshwater and a major commercial shipping route for Canada and the United States. Water levels in the Great Lakes have always fluctuated, but experts point to climate change, dredging, private shoreline alterations and even lingering effects of glaciers to explain the latest changes -- the decline of Lake Huron and slightly higher water levels in Lake Erie, into which Huron flows. Reuters_ 7/3/06

Report warns of limits on water supply to Chicago suburbs

Water supplies could run out in at least 11 townships in Chicago's outer suburbs by 2020 due to expanding population and development, according to a study released Monday that urges the state to formulate a comprehensive strategy to better understand and maximize its water supply. The report comes as Illinois continues to endure one of the most severe droughts in state history. Overall, Illinois is considered a water-rich state and it sits on Lake Michigan, one of the world's largest bodies of fresh water. But federal regulations cap how much of Lake Michigan can be tapped. In Chicago's expanding suburbs, the potential water supply problems generally crop up where the pipes linking to Lake Michigan end. Furthermore, communities, counties and private companies currently manage water supply for their areas in what amounts to a fragmented, inconsistent and inefficient manner, said the two-year report by the Campaign for Sensible Growth, Metropolitan Planning Council and Openl


Report: Few Great Lakes cities push water conservation; Chicago is the exception to the rule

Chicago's easy access to the vast blue waters of Lake Michigan is enough to make Las Vegas and Phoenix green with envy. The Windy City and its suburbs draw about 900 million gallons from the lake every day under a unique arrangement sanctioned by the U.S. Supreme Court. It virtually guarantees the biggest metro area on Great Lakes a reliable, seemingly inexhaustible water source.  But that hasn't stopped Chicago from waging one of the region's most aggressive campaigns for conservation. It began two years ago, when Mayor Richard Daley warned that relentless development and wasteful habits could jeopardize a water supply long taken for granted.  He proposed a wide-ranging strategy, with conservation as a centerpiece. Many of the Great Lakes region's public water systems encourage efficiency, said David Koch, who heads the Michigan section of the American Water Works Association. But a 2004 study by the Ann Arbor-based Great Lakes Commission suggests that comprehensive strategies such as Chicago's are the exception, not the rule.  Lansing State Journal_ 12/14/05

Great Lakes governors and Canadian premiers sign water sharing agreement

The Great Lakes governors or their representatives signed an unprecedented agreement Tuesday that could legally obligate their eight states to keep the lakes' water from going to other states and countries thirsty for fresh water supplies. The premiers of the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario signed a companion agreement that requires them to be consulted on large water diversion decisions, but would not be legally binding. The agreement allows water to be transferred from the lakes only to communities within the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin. The compact requires the approval of legislatures in all eight states before Congress could consider making the agreement law. AP/KARE 11_ 12/13/05

Negotiators reach deal on Great Lakes water protections

After four years of talks, negotiators have reached a deal aimed at preventing outsiders from raiding Great Lakes water and encouraging more efficient use of the coveted resource within the region. The agreement was motivated largely by fears that states in the booming _ and arid _ Southwest will try tapping into the lakes, which hold 90 percent of the nation's fresh surface water, as their populations and political clout grow. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the agreement, which would outlaw most new or increased diversions of water _ including groundwater, inland lakes and rivers as well as the Great Lakes _ from the basin.

Regulation of water use within the basin would be left up to each state and province, in keeping with standards designed to protect the ecosystem. They would be required to adopt conservation programs. They also would set their own policies on bottling water from the Great Lakes region, a particularly contentious issue. Many environmentalists say bottling water and selling it outside the basin is no less a diversion than shipping it away in tankers or through pipes. AP/Newsday_ 11/18/05

Michigan Senate Democrats to hold hearings on Great Lakes and other water bills

Michigan is the only state in the region that hasn't passed laws to regulate large-scale withdrawals from the Great Lakes. A spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema said the chamber won't take up the legislation until its sees the results of a law requiring an inventory of the state's groundwater. Democrats will also push for legislation to prevent sewage from entering lakes. The Environmental Protection Agency is considering whether to allow new federal standards that would let communities dump partially treated sewage into local waterways during heavy rainfalls. AP/Detroit News_ 4/23/05

Michigan Congresswoman seeks $2.5 million federal study of Great Lakes' water loss

An engineering study commissioned by a homeowners group concluded earlier this year that lakes Michigan and Huron have permanently lost a foot of water since 1970. Ongoing erosion in the St. Clair riverbed, caused in part by dredging shipping lanes and other manmade changes, has allowed more water to rush downstream, said W.F. Baird & Associates Coastal Engineers of Toronto. The study cast doubt on the prevailing theory that recent low lakes levels are due solely to long-term fluctuations, which typically run in 30- to 40-year cycles. The federal study proposed by Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township would be conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers and the International Joint Commission, a binational group assisting U.S. and Canadian governments in managing boundary waters. Detroit Free Press_ 3/3/05


Ontario, Canada demands tougher protection for Great Lakes in U.S. water-taking deal

Ontario will not sign an international deal to limit how much water can be diverted from the Great Lakes unless changes are made to better protect the basin, Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay said. The province fears a growing thirst for water among expanding U.S. suburbs that it warns could fuel demand for large-scale diversions from the five lakes comprising the world's largest system of fresh surface water. Canadian Press_ 11/15/04

Debate among eight Great Lakes states over entitlement to water boils over, in Canada

The Great Lakes governors wrestled with the issue for the past three years, and this summer released proposed rules that would allow some water to leave the Great Lakes basin, provided most of it is returned in the form of treated wastewater. But a citizens watchdog group in Canada argues the plan cuts Canada off with no rights to approve or veto water diversion. "The compact represents a unilateral approach for dealing with an international problem that reflects a pronounced and problematic trend by the U.S. to go it alone," says the legal opinion issued by the 100,000-member Council of Canadians.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel_ 10/22/04 (logon required)

>Statistics about Great Lakes water use Duluth News Tribune_ 10/25/04

Report: Great Lakes watersheds threatened by storm water runoff

The Environmental Protection Agency and states in the Great Lakes region are failing to enforce storm water runoff regulations, leading to threats to wildlife habitat in the lakes' watersheds, an environmental group said in a new report. The report by the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit advocacy group, said that state agencies in the half-dozen states it reviewed can't inspect even a fraction of the 20,000 storm water permits for industrial and construction sites. The report claims runoff from those sites — including heavy metals, bacteria and other pollutants — is making its way into the regions' streams and other waterways. AP/Mlive.com_ 9/30/04 (logon required)

Much of Waukesha County, Wisconsin shouldn't be allowed to draw water from Great Lakes to alleviate radium problem, public hearing told

The public information hearing was one of five being held throughout the state in the next week to gather public opinion to submit to the Council of Great Lakes Governors. That group is considering a set of rules for the future of the Great Lakes that will determine what areas will be able to directly access the fresh water and what environmental protections need to be installed to protect lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. The council consists of the eight U.S. states adjacent to the lakes and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Waukesha Freeman_ 9/29/04

Michigan House approves Great Lakes water diversion constitutional amendment

It would allow voters to decide in 2006 whether to change the state constitution to ban the diversion of water from the Great Lakes. The constitutional amendment now goes to the Senate, where it also will need approval from two-thirds of the 38 senators to get on the November 2006 ballot. It doesn't need Gov. Jennifer Granholm's signature. AP/Mlive.com_ 9/29/04 (logon required)

Michigan House panel approves proposal to let voters decide on Great Lakes water diversion

Michigan voters could decide as early as November 2006 whether to prohibit new diversions from the Great Lakes under a constitutional amendment approved Thursday by a state House committee. Some environmentalists and House Democrats have criticized the measure, saying it doesn't go far enough to regulate large withdrawals and puts off the debate until the next general election. Noah Hall, senior manager of the Great Lakes Water Resource Program of the National Wildlife Federation, said the resolution isn't needed because it duplicates an existing law. Detroit Free Press_ 9/23/04

Proposal by eight U.S. states to allow diversion of Great Lakes water threatens environment and Canada's sovereignty: Critics

Several groups plan to argue at public hearings the proposed agreement among eight U.S. states, especially in its current form, is dangerous. Known as the Implementing Agreement for Annex 2001, it would end a virtual moratorium on new or increased water diversions south of the border. Even though the legislation would allow only small-scale diversions, expert water consultant Ralph Pentland warns it would still be a very large foot in the door. "In the business of water, once you say maybe, you say yes," Pentland said. CP/cnews-Canada_ 9/19/04

Despite improvements, Great Lakes remain dumping ground for pollution ranging from livestock waste to mercury emissions

In its biennial report on Great Lakes water quality, the International Joint Commission urged the governments of both nations to step up protection and restoration efforts. The commission issues biennial progress reports on implementation of the 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, in which both nations agreed to reduce pollution and restore damaged areas.  AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 9/13/04

Compact would make it all but impossible to divert water from Great Lakes

The proposed Great Lakes Charter Annex must be approved by Congress and the legislatures in each of the Great Lakes states to become law. The measure would leave the door open for Great Lakes water to be shipped to areas in the region that are outside the basin but prevent it from heading to other areas, such as the Southwest. AP/Detroit Free Press_ 7/19/04

Environmental groups seek commitment from Michigan lawmakers to support voluntary agreement on Great Lakes water withdrawal

The 1985 agreement called upon all Great Lakes states to register companies that use 100,000 gallons of water or more a day. It is a nonbinding accord among the region's governors, their first effort to stand together against unregulated withdrawals. But Michigan, which is surrounded by Great Lakes water, was the only state that never followed through by having the Legislature pass legislation. Toledo Blade_ 6/28/04

Great Lakes water drain a concern
Cities along the Wisconsin shore of Lake Michigan are pumping so much ground water that they're actually reversing the lake's water flow, according to a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey. Capital News Service_ 3/8/04



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