Water in the works in December 07

The Great Lakes Water Resources Compact was signed last December by the governors of the eight states that border the lakes — Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York — and the premiers of the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario. The agreement requires approval of state legislatures before it is sent to Congress for final approval. Ohio’s Legislature is expected this week to become the first to approve the pact. New York’s may approve it later this month.

“This is not a water grab,” says Sam Speck, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. “It’s a commitment to protect a resource in the face of climate change and other challenges.”

The Great Lakes contain nine-tenths of the nation’s fresh water and supply drinking water to 30 million people in Chicago, Toronto, Buffalo and elsewhere. The lakes are an economic engine and the cultural centerpiece for much of the upper Midwest. But the fragile ecology of the lakes has suffered from pollution, invasive species of fish and the diversion of water to support Chicago and other cities.

The new agreement would control who can use the water and how much.


Grand Water Plan Downstream Pact” Last week’s agreement was truly significant, the most important changes since the first compact was drafted in 1922. And the manner in which it came about — no real winners or losers, but a cooperative regional effort to solve problems — was as surprising as it was refreshing.

“This is truly an historic moment,” said Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. “Celebrate this day. This is huge.”

The new water deal has four basic elements to manage the water in the Colorado River and its tributaries.

1. The new guidelines establish rules for shortages – specifying who will take reductions and when they take them. This is essential for prudent water planning in times of drought.

2. The new operational rules for Lake Powell and Lake Mead will allow these two massive reservoirs to rise and fall in tandem, thereby better sharing the risk of drought.

3. The new guidelines establish rules for surpluses, so that if the basin is blessed with ample runoff, the Department of the Interior will have rules to distribute the extra water.

4. The new rules will address the ongoing drought by encouraging new initiatives for water conservation.

Previously, the compact divided the states into Upper and Lower Basins, with each to get equal allotments of 7.5 million acre feet per year. But some believe that the 1920s was a wet period, and the allocations were based on an assumption of 16.4 million acre in the basins. Today, the long-term average annual water flow is assumed at 13.5 million acre feet, so it is no surprise that increased demand, because of rampant population growth, had increased interstate tensions. The river provides water to utilities that serve 30 million people. (The eight states in the Southwest water sharing area).

I was hoping STR could post on the Great Lakes compact, and the very direct agreement not to ship water out of the current boundaries.