Federal, state, and provincial governments have worked together to protect the Great Lakes from water diversions and to manage consumption of the water resources.

In 2000, the International Joint Commission (IJC) pointed to policy gaps across government bodies with respect to the Great Lakes. In a statement released this week, the IJC described the progress over the last sixteen years as “for the most part a good new story.”

Specifically, the IJC pointed to the 2008 Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Compact, which is a parallel agreement among U.S. states, Ontario, and Quebec that banned most diversions and exports.

Canadian Commissioner Benoît Bouchard said, “this is really a model for watersheds all over the world, emphasizing water conservation and stewardship.”

In order to continue the integral, collaborative defenses against large scale water transfers the IJC has issued a course of action that will implement the following:

  • Improvements to the accuracy of measuring the Great Lakes water use
  • The incorporation of climate resilience policies into management practices
  • Mapping groundwater aquifers for predictive information on potential future degradation of supplies
  • And the support of public water infrastructure, support of innovation, and the increase of of funding to close infrastructure deficits.

The IJC’s U.S. Commissioner, Dareth Glance, described the significance of protecting the shared resources in the basin as follows: “There is no surplus Great Lakes water, as only one percent of the Great Lakes water supply is renewed each year by rainfall and snowmelt.”

Established in 1909 under the Boundary Waters Treaty, The IJC was put in place to prevent and resolve disputes surrounding the shared use of the water in the Great Lakes region. Reiterating their mission in the 2008 Boundary Waters Treaty Centennial Edition, the ICJ stated that “as population growth, climate change, and the global transport of pollution and invasive species place new stresses on transboundary ecosystems, reliable structures for cooperation like the Boundary Waters Treaty and the IJC will be more important than ever.”

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Read more about the work of the IJC here.

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