PDF _ RL32956 - Great Lakes Water Withdrawals: Legal and Policy Issues
7-Oct-2008; Pervaze A. Sheikh, Cynthia Brougher; 26 p.

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Abstract: The Great Lakes and their connecting waters form the largest fresh surface water system on Earth and support substantial social, economic, and ecological interests in the United States and Canada. Because less than 1% of Great Lakes water, on average, is renewed annually, many are concerned with potential threats to lake levels and quality, including environmental and climatic changes, growing consumptive uses of water, and most notably, a growing demand to move Great Lakes water to water-thirsty regions across the United States and throughout the world. Several laws, policies, and governing bodies already regulate the use, withdrawal, and diversion of water from the Great Lakes Basin; however, the concern over domestic and international demand for Great Lakes water has prompted officials from the United States and Canada to reevaluate these laws and policies. The Council of Great Lakes Governors (CGLG) — a partnership of the governors of the eight Great Lakes states and the Canadian provincial premiers of Ontario and Quebec — was tasked with creating a new common conservation standard to manage water diversions, withdrawals, and consumptive use proposals.

On December 13, 2005, the CGLG released (1) the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement and (2) the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. These water management agreements ban new and increased diversions of water outside the Great Lakes Basin with only limited, highly regulated exceptions, and establish a framework for each state and province to enact laws protecting the Basin. The Compact needs to be approved by each Great Lake state legislature, as well as the U.S. Congress, to achieve full force and effect as an interstate compact. The Canadian federal government and the provinces of Ontario or Quebec are not parties to the Compact; the provinces are, however, signatories to the related international state-provincial Agreement. Currently, all Great Lakes states have enacted legislation approving the Compact. Congress has provided its consent to the Compact, and the President has signed the legislation (P.L. 110-342).

This report describes the characteristics of the Great Lakes, the interests they support, and possible threats to lake levels. It analyzes the federal laws and policies that regulate the diversion, withdrawal, and consumptive use of water from the Great Lakes. Also included is a discussion of the final Compact and Agreement and some of the issues raised by various interest groups. This report concludes with a general discussion on the relationship between compacts, federal law, and the Congress.

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Topics: Water, Natural Resources, Wetlands

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