No surplus water
in the Great Lakes

Arid parts of the world may covet Great Lakes water, but a recent study recommends that Canadian and U.S. governments should not permit the removal of water from the Great Lakes Basin unless it can be demonstrated that the removal will not endanger the integrity of the worlds largest freshwater ecosystem.

The study by the International Joint Commission (IJC), the binational agency that monitors Great Lakes issues, says that proponents of water removals should demonstrate that there are no practical alternatives to the removal, sound planning has been applied in the proposal, the cumulative impacts of the removal have been considered, conservation practices have been implemented, the removal results in no net loss of waters to the area from which it is taken (and, in any event, no greater than a five percent loss in the process, the current average loss within the Great Lakes Basin) and that all waters are returned in a condition that protects the quality of and prevents the introduction of alien invasive species into the waters of the Great Lakes Basin.

Because there is uncertainty about the availability of Great Lakes water to meet all ecosystem needs, including human needs, over the long term, the report concludes that water should be managed with caution to protect the resource for the future. It also concludes that international trade law obligations, including the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), do not prevent Canada and the United States from taking measures to protect their water resources and preserving the integrity of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem so long as there is no discrimination against individuals from other countries in the application of those measures.




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Great Lakes issues

Great Lakes United, the citizens advocacy group for a healthy Great Lakes Basin, recently found an interesting way to categorize the major issues facing the lakes:

  • Air: Transition to clean cars, deposition of air pollutants across national boundaries.
  • Fire: Coalition building, community health, global warming.
  • Water: Concerns over export/diversion of Great Lakes water, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the U.S. and Canada, native species restoration.
  • Earth: Biological diversity, ecofeminism, world trade.


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