Plan to Prevent Water Abuse, Export, and Diversion by Reg Gilbert, Great Lakes United
The governors of the Great Lakes states have reached general agreement on changing basin water law so that water use proposals are judged by their effects on the environment. The hope in the “Annex 2001” document is to improve the region’s ability to reject environmentally harmful proposals to use Great Lakes water whether inside or outside the Great Lakes basin.
Once Annex 2001 is finalized, sometime this spring, the states and provinces will start negotiating a detailed agreement based on its principles.
Great Lakes environmental groups have praised the general principles of Annex 2001, but warn that some of its provisions, particularly an exemption for certain “small” uses under 1 million gallons per day, undermine the environmental protection purpose of the plan. The cumulative impacts of the putatively small proposals on local water levels or the Great Lakes basin environment could be dramatic. Furthermore, the exemption would hamper the annex’s ability to serve as a defense against bulk water export and diversion proposals. International trade agreements and U.S. commerce law may limit the ability of regional governments to prevent export and diversion projects, unless the efforts to do so are non-discriminatory.