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Great Lakes Article:

Water Wars
Protection sought for Great Lakes
By Robert Montgomery
BASS Times
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 the basin.

"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," Taft said.

In particular, the Southwest is looking at the Great Lakes.

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.

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