Lakes Water Diversions
From Northeast Midwest Institute
proposal to transfer groundwater from Lake Michigan's
hydrologic system for mining purposes and the "Nova
Group" permit issued by Ontario for the bulk export
of Lake Superior water to Asian markets have highlighted
inadequacies in existing arrangements for managing Great
Lakes water diversions.
Great Lakes Task Forces have organized Capitol Hill briefings
on Great Lakes water diversions, and Northeast-Midwest
Institute staff have testified on the issue before the
International Joint Commission. Leaders of the Great Lakes
Task Forces in September 1999 asked the United States
Trade Representative to ensure that international trade
agreements do not interfere with long-term protection
of the Great Lakes.
current system for approving withdrawals, as legislated
in the Water Resources Development Acts of 1986 and 2000,
prohibits any diversion or export of Great Lakes water
outside of the basin unless all 8 Great Lakes Governors
consent. The eight Great Lakes states handle in basin
water withdrawals from the Great Lakes basin in several
does not require a permit for any water withdrawals,
either groundwater or surface water. State law does
not allow water to be diverted from within the Great
Lakes basin for use outside of the basin, unless the
diversion is approved by the Governors of each Great
Lakes state; however, because the state does not require
permits, it has difficulty identifying withdrawals
that might be diverted out of the basin.
is legally limited in the amount of water that it
can divert from the Great Lakes. Therefore, the
state has developed a permitting process to allocate
its share of Lake Michigan water, giving first priority
to maintaining minimum flows in the Sanitary and
Ship Canal and to certain residential, commercial
or industrial users. The state considers the conservation
practices of applicants when issuing permits.
regulate water withdrawals. However, the state requires
community public water supply systems and certain
large water users such as thermoelectric power plants
and irrigated golf courses to submit water withdrawal
requires a water use permit from all users withdrawing
more than 10,000 gallons per day (gpd) or 1 million
gallons per year. Also, any interbasin water diversion
of more than 2 million gpd requires permission of
the legislature and an environmental assessment.
Furthermore, a diversion or consumptive use of more
than 5 million gallons/day average from the Great
Lakes basin also requires approval from additional
state agencies and the other Great Lakes states
registration of all withdrawals from the Great Lakes
Basin that exceed 100,000 gpd averaged over a 30-day
period. New York will consult with other Great Lakes
States on any new withdrawal that will result in
a 5 million gpd loss (30 day average) to the basin.
Any interbasin diversions from the Great Lakes require
the approval of the governor and the legislature.
does not have any system for permitting or notification
of water withdrawals.
requires the owner of any facility with the capacity
to withdraw more than 100,000 gpd to register that
facility with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Also, the state may designate an area as a ground
water stress area, establish a threshold withdrawal
capacity for that area, and require registration
for any withdrawals above this threshold.
requires reporting of any water withdrawal over
100,000 gpd (30 day average). A permit is required
if the total water lost from the basin is greater
than 2 million gpd (30 day average). A diversion
or consumptive use of 5 million gpd or greater requires
consultation with the other Great Lakes states.
the end of the 106th Congress, WRDA 2000 amended
the authority given to the Great Lakes Governors to manage
Great Lakes water withdrawals so that a better framework
for dealing with Great Lakes basin withdrawals would be
created. The Great Lakes Governors responded by proposing
an amendment to the Great Lakes Charter. Annex 2001 calls
for the establishment of a standard that would be used
in reviewing water withdrawals that involve both the export
of water outside the Great Lakes basin and water withdrawals
within the basin. This new standard, which will be based
on the principles of the Annex, would be created through
a separate binding agreement among states and provinces.
The principles of the Annex state that any Great Lakes
water withdrawal proposal inside or outside the basin
(1) must implement reasonable water conservation measures,
(2) will not cause significant adverse impacts, and (3)
will result in an improvement to the resource. There will
be an exception for withdrawals with de minimus impact.
implementation of the Annex is a two-step process. The
first step will be to apply the standard to out of basin
withdrawals reviewed by the governors pursuant to WRDA.
Once this Annex is signed by the governors, the governors
would then abide by the de minimus framework of the Annex
for withdrawals outside the basin. The governors are expected
to sign the Annex around May. The second step will require
state and federal legislation to approve an interstate
compact creating a standard for all withdrawals. The states
and provinces must draft this standard in 3 years. Once
authorized by state and federal legislation, this new
standard will apply to all new and expanded withdrawals
in and outside the Great Lakes basin. Existing uses are
expected to be grandfathered but will be required to meet
the new standard when additional withdrawals or capacity