This week, mayors from Québec, Ontario and the United States made a Declaration on Water Sustainability, committing to common sustainable water management practices to protect the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence. Also at the bi-national conference of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, five cities were recognized for their outstanding efforts in water conservation, water pollution prevention and sustainability.

“Today, my fellow mayors and I made an important declaration on water sustainability to protect the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence through our cities’ daily operations and long term investments, ” said Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee, chair of the Cities Initiative. “Together, the mayors of the Cities Initiative are making a difference in the future health and prosperity of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence region and are showing leadership globally in sustainable water management.”

In support of the declaration, the Cities Initiative released a report on Sustainable Municipal Water Management, with best practices from members, along with  a method for evaluating and publicly reporting on progress on common actions by cities across the basin. Members will be asked to present their public reports on sustainable water management at our next annual general meeting in June 2013.

“In the face of climate change, increased urbanization and dwindling water supply in some parts of the globe, we must never take the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence, the world’s largest source of surface fresh water, for granted,” said Mayor Régis Labeaume of the Québec Metropolitan Community, and vice-chair of the Cities Initiative. “As water managers, cities have a responsibility to be water-wise and report publicly on our progress in managing this globally threatened resource.”

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Since the introduction of the Cities Initiative Water Conservation Framework in 2007, 33 cities have committed to working towards a 15 per cent reduction (below year 2000 water use levels) by the year 2015. As of this year, almost half of the participants have already achieved a 16 per cent reduction in water consumption, conserving approximately 106 billion gallons or 401 billion litres of water cumulatively. The City of Thunder Bay received the award for Most Innovative Water Conservation Method and the City of Windsor received the Most Progress on Water Conservation Award.

The Cities of Duluth, Minnesota and Thunder Bay were awarded the Green CITTS Awards for Leadership in Pollution Prevention. Lambton County was awarded the Green CITTS Award for Progress in Pollution Prevention.

The City of Gary, Indiana received the sixth annual Wege Small Cities Sustainability Best Practices Award. The award is given to a community with a population of less than 100,000 for a Great Lakes-St. Lawrence project that balances economic, social, and environmental aspects and that can be used as a best practice in other communities.

At the meeting, Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee was elected the 2012-2013 chair of the Cities Initiative, succeeding Mayor Brian McMullan of St. Catharines. Mayor Régis Labeaume of the Quebec Metropolitan Community is the new vice-chair, and Mayor Keith Hobbs of Thunder Bay, is the secretary/treasurer.

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