Coming: Our late Great Lakes?
Cook County News-Herald
Published September 9th, 2004
Close to four years have passed since the government of
Canada and those of the U.S. states bordering the Great
Lakes committed to each other to cherish their shared
resource — the priceless and non-renewable waters of the
In a February 2000 report issued by the International
Joint Commission a number of very specific measures were
recommended. Chief among them, removal of water from the
lakes was to be monitored scrupulously. As the report
notes, although the Great Lakes contain 20 percent of
our planet’s fresh water, a paltry one percent of this
vast reservoir is restored annually. Pressures to sell
water to thirsty nations the world ’round multiply by
the week. Our own country sprawls into lands of rock or
sand without a thought.
Since the 2000 report, there has been some progress.
Amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty
Act and Regulations in 2002 prohibit water removals from
Canadian boundary waters of the Great Lakes. Amendments
to the U.S. Water Resources Development Act of 1986, which
prohibits diversion of Great Lakes water unless approved
by all eight Great Lakes state governors, encourage the
U.S. states and the provinces of Ontario and Quebec to
put together diversion decision standards. And on July
19 of this year, the Great Lakes states, Ontario and Quebec
put out for public comment a good-faith arrangement dubbed
Great Lakes Annex 2001, committing them to new decision-making
standards and a support system for managed withdrawals
of Great Lakes waters.
Notably, there are no active proposals for diversions
outside the basin, but communities on the edge of it —
New Berlin, Wis. and Lowell, Ind. — are actively seeking
diversion of water to support growth. This is regarded
as ominous by the commission.
Already, the International Joint Commission notes “large
groundwater withdrawals in southeastern Wisconsin have
reduced groundwater flow to Lake Michigan and, in some
locations, have reversed flow.” In other words, parasites
are sucking a Great Lake dry. This is something that cannot
The report states that seven of 12 measures that ensure
Great Lake waters integrity for future generation have
not been “fully implemented” by the U.S. governments and
the Canadian provinces have failed to implement six of
The Great Lakes deserve better and so do we. For more
information on this report, see www.ijc.org or write International
Joint Commission, Great Lakes Regional Office, P.O. Box
32869, Detroit, MI 48232.
We cannot afford four more years of fiddling while our
most precious resources dwindle.