By Kristy Meyer, Ohio Environmental Council
The Great Lakes. They hold 95 percent of our nation’s and 20 percent of the Earth’s fresh surface water. They are a source of drinking water, jobs, plentiful wildlife and lasting memories. Truly, they are one of the natural wonders of the world.
While the Great Lakes are a vast resource, they are not unlimited. Each year rainfall and snowmelt replenish only about one percent of the water in the basin. The other 99 percent is finite and nonrenewable.
There is a growing demand for water by domestic users – including utilities, agriculture, manufacturers, and housing. Proposals even exist to export water to other parts of the U.S. and around the world. Current laws, though, simply are not strong enough to protect our Great Lakes from massive withdrawal and diversion schemes.This nearly happened a few years ago, when a foreign company proposed to withdraw 158 million gallons of Lake Superior water annually to export to Asia by ship tankers. Fortunately, that proposal was withdrawn. But without a legally-binding compact to control water use, the lakes remain vulnerable to such threatening schemes.
The Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Basin Water Resources Compact: a balanced and comprehensive protection plan
After six years of negotiations, the Great Lakes Governors have endorsed a carefully balanced and precedent-setting agreement to protect and conserve the Great Lakes: the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. Once ratified by all eight Great Lakes states and approved by Congress, the Compact will become legally enforceable and protect the Great Lakes from harm by implementing a strong and comprehensive water management plan. This will give the Great Lakes region legal control over Great Lakes water, guaranteeing long-term protection and sound management of the basin’s water.
The Great Lakes Compact – threatened by loopholes
Before the ink is even dry, some industry groups already are pushing for concessions in the Compact. They want to carve out more favorable water rights by changing the Compact’s environmental decision-making standard. Under their proposal, a water use project could be rejected only if it poses a threat to both the Lake basin as a whole and the Great Lakes basin as a whole. Under industry’s loophole, the foreign company that proposed to withdraw 158 million gallons annually to Asia could have been approved, as well as a withdrawal the size of an existing diversion in Chicago, IL of 2.1 billion gallons of water per day, which flows down the Chicago River into the Mississippi River and out into the Gulf of Mexico. State lawmakers are planning to vote on the Compact this month.
For more information:
Ohio Environmental Council 1207 Grandview Ave., Ste. 201, Columbus, OH 43212
PH. 614 487 7506 • F. 614 487 7510 • E-mail: Kristy@TheOEC.org