January 26, 2006Client Alert

New Multinational Intergovernmental Agreements Could Mean Great Protections for the Great Lakes and Big Changes for Industrial and Residential Uses of Great Lakes Waters

On December 13, 2005, the Great Lakes Governors and Premiers signed the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Compact, also known as the Great Lakes Charter Annex agreements (collectively, the "St. Lawrence River Basin Agreements"). The Great Lakes Governors and Premiers represent ten governmental jurisdictions, including the eight U.S. States of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, as well as the two Canadian Provinces of Ontario and Québec, all of which contain land area within the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin ("Basin"). The Basin is the watershed of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River upstream from Trois Rivères, Québec and includes waters within the geographic areas
surrounding the Great Lakes and the Trois Rivères.

Among the most significant protections established for the benefit of the Basin under the St. Lawrence River Basin Agreements, is the ban of new or increased diversions of water from, for example, the Lake Michigan Basin, with some limited exceptions. A water diversion is generally defined by the agreements as a transfer of Great Lakes waters from the Basin into another watershed or from the watershed of one of the Great Lakes into that of another. The Agreements are careful to exclude from the definition of a diversion any use of water from the Basin or a Great Lake watershed to manufacture or produce a product that is then transferred from the Basin or watershed. However, the future water supplies for communities straddling or near the Basin, including, for example, the City of Waukesha, Wisconsin and the Village of Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, may be impacted.

The St. Lawrence River Basin Agreements also provide that water conservation and efficiency programs applicable to all existing water diversions will be developed by the States and Provinces that are a party to the agreements. The Agreements require: the use of a consistent standard to review proposed uses and diversions of Great Lakes waters; strengthened collection and sharing of technical data relating to Great Lakes waters; development of regional goals and objectives for water conservation and efficiency; and implementation of a water conservation efficiency program; and the balance of economic development with sustainable water use to ensure responsible management of Great Lakes waters. Those U.S. States and Canadian Providences that are a party to the Agreements must now each enact legislation to properly implement them.

For further information, please contact Bill White at 608.283.2246, or

back to top