The largest group of freshwater lakes in the world may no longer share its water-wealth beyond its watershed borders—if a special agreement among states is approved.
The eight Great Lakes states will send the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact to Congress for approval, according to National Public Radio. The compact is a special agreement governing the use of the water in the Great Lakes watershed and would keep water from being diverted, pumped or piped out of the Great Lakes watershed.
Pennsylvania's Senate approved the compact July 3, according to the Associated Press, and Gov. Ed Rendell said he plans to sign it, making Pennsylvania the final state to approve the agreement.
If the compact gains approval from Congress, it will still need final approval from the president to become law. The compact would require states to adopt plans to improve water quality, protect ecosystems and ensure that water use does not threaten supply, according to AP.
The five Great Lakes—Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie and Ontario—make up a watershed that reaches from the mouth of the St. Lawrence River to beyond the western edge of Lake Superior.
“The compact, for the very first time, will provide uniform binding water use standards for the eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces. First time ever we've all been playing off the same sheet music when it comes to how we use this amazing natural resource,” Cameron Davis, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, told NPR.
Key provisions of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact include:
- Prohibits diversion of Great Lakes water out of the watershed, with rare exceptions;
- Says states must cooperate with the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec;
- Creates a special council that the governors of all Great Lakes states and the premiers of the two Canadian neighbor provinces must serve; and
- Establishes a set of decision-making rules for the council about the use of local water withdrawal within the watershed.