The Annex 2001 Agreement discusses how much and to whom the water from the Great Lakes is going. Ontario objects to the current Agreement in fear that it doesn't do enough to protect the Lakes. (Photo by Kym
Ontario provincial leaders say they’re not willing to sign
a draft agreement aimed at protecting the Great Lakes from diversion in its current form. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports, observers say Ontario’s objections won’t sidetrack negotiations on the agreement known as the Great Lakes Charter
Ontario provincial leaders say they’re not willing to sign a draft agreement aimed at protecting the Lakes from water diversions in its current form. Observeers say the objections won’t sidetrack negotiations on the agreement known as the Great Lakes Charter Annex. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett has this report:
The Charter Annex would give the eight states and two provinces that surround the Lakes a say in how much water can be diverted out of the Lakes to other regions. But Ontario officials say they don’t think the current draft goes far enough to protect the Lakes. David Natzger is with the Council of Great Lakes Governors, which is coordinating negotiations bewteent he states and provinces to implement the Annex. Natzger says the announcement reflects healthy debate, and not a snag in the process.
“I think it says that there’s a lot of interest in this issue in Ontario, and certainly there were some concerns that were raised in the public comment period, and they will be taken into consideration as changes are considered and made, ultimately.”
In January, the staffs of the Great Lakes governors and premiers plan to start negotiating changes to the Annex. Natzger says the changes will reflect some of the concerns brought forward in ten-thousand public comments.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Sarah Hulett.
The Great Lakes from space (Color satellite photo courtesy of NOAA).
Leaders of the states and provinces around the Great Lakes have released two draft agreements to manage the region’s water supply. The proposals’ aim is to block any attempt to divert water from the lakes to drier parts of the world. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports:
Leaders of the states and provinces around the Great Lakes have released a draft agreement to
manage the region’s water supply. The proposal’s aim is to block any attempt to divert water
from the lakes to drier parts of the world. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett
There’s no immediate threat by outside interests to ship or pump large amounts of Great Lakes
water to the arid Southwest, or to any other part of the world that needs freshwater. And the
draft agreements aim to keep it that way.
There are two documents up for consideration by the public and policy makers. One would be a
binding compact between the states. The other would be a voluntary agreement between the
states and provinces.
Ohio Governor Bob Taft co-chairs the Council of Great Lakes Governors – which released the
“The whole effort is premised out of our concern that we have a legally enforceable framework,
and a clear standard.”
There’s already a federal law on the books that allows any one Great Lakes governor to veto a
diversion of water from the lakes. But there are concerns about challenges under the U.S.
Constitution, or free trade agreements.
The Great Lakes Charter Annex would require the approval of all eight states for any proposal to
divert more than a million gallons a day out of the basin. Even if a diversion is approved, there’s
a catch: whatever’s taken out of the basin would have to be returned once it’s used.
Noah Hall of the National Wildlife Federation says the practical effect of those requirements
would be a guarantee that the lakes don’t get pilfered by drier parts of the U.S….
“…Where they have growing populations and dwindling supplies of water, and they’ve been
looking at using the Great Lakes to meet their water needs for some time. I think they’ll
obviously see this agreement for what it is, which is a pretty large barrier – perhaps an
insurmountable barrier – to accessing Great Lakes water down the road.”
The agreement would also allow any three states to block withdrawals from within the basin of
more than five million gallons a day. Existing users would be grandfathered in, so only the most
mammoth project would likely come up for consideration – a new power plant, for example.
Hall says that means at most one project a year that would come up for review.
“But what it guards against is the threat of the absolute largest diversions. The massive
withdrawals. The ones that could by themselves harm or impact the Great Lakes, and lower lake
Eventually, states would be required to put rules in place for managing smaller withdrawals
within the basin. Even under a best-case scenario, that wouldn’t happen for at least a dozen
years. But Ohio Governor Taft says the end result will be preservation of the lakes for future
“We have a responsibility as stewards of this precious resource – 20 percent of the world’s fresh
water supply – to protect and preserve it for the benefit of the people within the region, and that
is what the draft agreement is intended to accomplish.”
The plan is up for public review over the next three months. Each Great Lakes state would have
to sign off on the interstate compact. It would also require the approval of Congress. And the
fast-growing arid southwest has more representation in Congress every term.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Sarah Hulett.
Fast-growing cities beyond the Great Lakes basin want to withdraw water from the lakes. The Council of the Great Lakes Governors is considering allowing more to do so. (Photo: Sleeping Bear Dunes, Lake Michigan, by Lester Graham)
More cities and businesses outside the Great Lakes basin want to take water from the Lakes. Great Lakes governors and provincial leaders are working on proposed new rules to control water diversions. Their proposal is expected to be released this month. Some say there’s a chance that more communities just outside the basin will get some water from the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach has the story:
More cities and businesses outside the Great Lakes basin want to take water from the Lakes. Great Lakes governors and provincial leaders are working on proposed new rules to control water diversions. Their proposal is expected to be released this month. Some say there’s a chance that more communities just outside the basin will get some lake water. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach has the story.
Only a few communities outside the Great Lakes Basin currently get water from the Lakes, but some inland cities are growing and running short on groundwater supplies. One such city is Waukesha, Wisconsin. Waukesha is 25 miles away from Lake Michigan. The city is on the far side of the sub-continental divide that separates the Great Lakes basin from the basin where surface waters drain to the Mississippi river.
(pump house noise for a few seconds, then fade under)
At the sunset pumping station in Waukesha, blue-painted pumps push groundwater from a large storage tank towards the homes of some of the city’s 65-thousand residents. Waukesha’s population has grown about 30 percent over the last two decades, so water utility general manager Dan Duchniak says the city is pumping more water than it used to…especially during dry periods when people water their lawns.
“When we did not have all the rain we had, we had our peak days around 10-11 million gallons a day – now around 12-13 million gallons a day. It goes up couple hundred thousand gallons per year.”
(gradually fade pump noise out)
No one in Waukesha is doing without tap water, but the groundwater table has dropped 300 feet over the last 50 years. And there’s another problem. Waukesha’s water supply is tainted by radium, a naturally occurring contaminant that could cause cancer. One of Waukesha’s long-term ideas for improving its water is to abandon the city wells and pump in up to twenty million gallons a day from Lake Michigan. In a complicated argument, hydrologists say Waukesha’s groundwater aquifer and the lake are connected anyway, so Dan Duchniak says a pipeline to the lake would not be a new withdrawal of water, and would actually help restore the original natural system.
“All we’re saying to make it real simple right now we have a vertical straw that is pulling water from the aquifer that has its tributary to the Great Lakes, we just want to take that water and make it horizontal for the better of the environment all around us.”
Duchniak has the ear of Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle. Governor Doyle is the new Chair of the Council of Great Lakes Governors. Among other things the council decides on water withdrawals from the Great Lakes. The governors of the eight Great Lakes states and leaders of Quebec and Ontario are expected to soon release a proposal called annex 2001. If passed, it will update rules on diverting great lakes water. Governor Doyle says he opposes sending water out of the Midwest, but he says short-distance diversions might be okay, if there’s a drop for drop return of clean water. Doyle acknowledges he needs unanimous agreement.
“There’s no reason for a governor of another state to approve even a small diversion unless they have some real confidence that the Great Lakes will be protected. That’s the way we protect it. Every single governor needs to approve.”
Governor Doyle says any change in diversion policy is years away. Still, environmental groups are closely watching for the annex 2001 proposal. Reg Gilbert is with Great Lakes United. He says before any more diversions are allowed, the plan should include more guidelines for water conservation. he says the lakes are too important to put them at risk by withdrawing too much water.
“Both our quality of life and a significant part of our economics come from a good functioning Great Lakes and if the rules for protecting it require it being difficult to divert water even those communities that want to divert that water might want to think twice and see it’s in the best interest of the whole region to have pretty strong rules… even if it makes it a little bit harder for some communities to get the water they need.”
Gilbert says he’s also looking for a plan that will pass muster with international trade courts that have questioned the legality of great lakes officials controlling the local waters. Gilbert’s hoping a lot of people will weigh in with their ideas during an upcoming comment period.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Chuck Quirmbach