Protection sought for Great Lakes
By Robert Montgomery
Published Nov. 2004
CHICAGO, Ill. — As municipalities around the nation, and
even the world, cast greedy eyes toward the Great Lakes,
states around the world's largest reserve of freshwater
have acted to protect this precious resource.
Eight governors have signed on to a "Great Lakes
Charter Annex," a plan that would require their respective
states, in consultation with officials in Ontario and
Quebec, to approve any proposal to divert more than 1
million gallons of water a day out of the region. At least
six would be required to approve withdrawal of an average
of 5 million gallons a day within the region for more
than 120 days.
Smaller proposed diversions within the basin would be
reviewed by the jurisdictions involved, and the states
would have 10 years to implement appropriate rules.
Additionally, approval of any new or increased diversions
would require that treated wastewater be returned to the
lakes to reduce reduction of water levels, and conservation
efforts would be required of those who live and work within
"This is to protect us from the demands outside
the region that threaten the ecology," said Ohio
Gov. Bob Taft, co-chair of the Council of Great Lakes
Governors, which worked on the proposal for three years.
The plan now must be approved by state legislatures in
Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York,
Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as Congress. Such
an undertaking likely will take years.
As the proposal is considered, the governors expect attempts
to take water from the Great Lakes will continue.
"We expect those types of efforts could well increase,"
In particular, the Southwest is looking at the Great
Booming populations in Las Vegas and elsewhere are close
to overwhelming available water supplies, and the Colorado
River, a primary source, is at record low flows. Of great
concern to the governors is the fact that such thirsty
areas are increasing their political clout as more people
move in. That translates into stronger representation
in Congress and, conceivably, proposals to build massive
pipeline systems that would deliver Great Lakes water
thousands of miles away.
The governors' proposed agreement is an update of the
1985 Great Lakes Charter, seeking to curb water diversion
and bulk water exports. In 2001, the governors agreed
to create a binding agreement by 2004 that would protect,
preserve, restore and improve the Great Lakes.