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Great Lakes Article:

Clean Wisconsin Quiz: Test Your Great Lakes Water Smarts
Business Wire
Posted June 2, 2004

MADISON, Wis.--The Great Lakes are one of the natural wonders of the world. In a 2002 survey of 1,540 adults living in the eight Great Lakes states (commissioned by The Joyce Foundation and The Biodiversity Project) 94 percent believe each of us has a personal responsibility to protect the Great Lakes. They are a place Wisconsinites call home and a resource for us to use and protect because they are the heart of the ecosystems we rely on for life. Additionally, they are a gift whose beauty and bounty enrich our lives and identify our region.

Given all these wonderful and accurate sentiments, why is it that so many of us don't truly understand the vulnerability of the Great Lakes? The following quiz was developed by Clean Wisconsin, an environmental advocacy organization, to test Wisconsinite's Great Lakes water smarts and help residents become more informed about current issues facing the Great Lakes region.

True or False:

Great Lakes water supplies are not affected by off shore communities drawing water from underground (or groundwater) resources.

False. Groundwater resources are directly connected to the Great Lakes. According to the United States Geological Survey, approximately 35 percent of the water feeding Lake Michigan originates from groundwater that flows into rivers and streams. (1)

Great Lakes lake levels need to drop four inches or more before the lower level adversely affects the shipping industry.

False. Each year, Wisconsin's 12 active harbors on Lakes Michigan and Superior handle a total of more than 40 million tons (40 billion kilograms) of commodities valued at more than $7 billion. According to the United States Great Lakes Shipping Association, every inch of lost clearance from low water levels can cost shipping vessels $11,000 per day because of reduced cargo carrying capacity.

There is a regional, comprehensive law that prohibits a commercial entity or specific community from drawing more than "their fair share" of water from the Great Lakes and its surrounding groundwater resources.

False. Although the "Great Lakes Governors and Canadian Premiers have followed a set of principles which guide them in developing, maintaining and strengthening the regional management regime for the Great Lakes ecosystem," (2) there is currently no regional, comprehensive law that places limits on commercial or municipal interests. There are those selling Great Lakes water for profit, like oil or lumber. And the region is using Great Lakes groundwater faster than nature can replenish it. Because there is no regional law monitoring usage and protecting reserves, many communities like Waukesha, are drying up their reserves and needing to look elsewhere for supply.

There is a formal procedure underway to pass legislation that would help protect the Great Lakes and surrounding communities and ecosystem.

True. Wisconsin's Governor Doyle and other Great Lakes States Governors and Canadian Premiers have formed a council and are currently deciding how to wisely use, not abuse, this vital resource. In the weeks and months ahead, you will see references to the Great Lakes "Annex". This is an agreement signed by the Great Lakes Governors and Premiers to write a supply standard based on the environmental protections in the Great Lakes Charter. In 1986, the Great Lakes Charter set forth principles to guide the council to protect, conserve, restore and improve the Great Lakes. And although there has been significant progress since 1986, the Great Lakes Basin is still at risk from pollution, unregulated diversion and environmental abuse.

There's nothing I can do to help protect the Great Lakes.

False. In the immediate future you can:

Call Governor Doyle now (608.266.1212) and ask him to:

-- Hold multiple, statewide hearings to discuss the draft agreement between the Governors. Public participation is essential to this process.

-- Ensure that the agreement between the Governors and Premiers provides the ecosystem protections and improvements called for by the Great Lakes Charter Annex.

Attend a hearing and comment on the draft agreement. Check out Clean Wisconsin's website ( to find out more about the draft, hearing dates and locations. Make your voice heard on behalf of the Great Lakes. Ask for the items listed above.

Write your legislators. Check Clean Wisconsin's website to stay tuned to the legislation drafting process. Once the legislation is drafted (currently slated to be announced on June 18th) there will be a very important citizen comment period lasting 90 days, during which time it is important to contact your legislators and voice your opinion. Find out how to contact your legislators by calling 1.800.362.9472 or go to

In Wisconsin, Clean Wisconsin is the main environmental group working with the Great Lakes Council to achieve an "enhanced water management system that is simple, durable, efficient, retains and respects authority within the basin, and most importantly protects, conserves, restores and improves the Waters and Water-Dependent Natural Resources of the Great Lakes Basin." (3) Stay tuned to Clean Wisconsin's website for the latest updates in the Annex process.

We all have a responsibility to protect and conserve the lakes, not for a single interest, but for our families, for wildlife and for the future. We cannot wait for a disaster to happen. We can all take steps now to help keep the lakes healthy forever.

Clean Wisconsin, an environmental advocacy organization founded as Wisconsin's Environmental Decade, protects Wisconsin's clean water and air and advocates for clean energy by being an effective voice in the state legislature and by holding elected officials and corporations accountable. Phone: 608.251.7020, Fax: 608.251.1655, Email:, Website:

Editors: A full press kit and hi-res infographic is available at in the press room. Smallest reproduction size of infographic is approx. 7.25 inches wide by 4.5 inches tall.


(2)The Great Lakes Charter Annex: A supplementary Agreement to the Great Lakes Charter, June 18, 2001.

(3)The Great Lakes Charter Annex: A supplementary Agreement to the Great Lakes Charter, June 18, 2001.


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