Great Lakes Compact: Reflecting On The Agreement 10 Years Later

Oct 5, 2018

It’s been a decade since the Great Lakes Compact was signed into law. The historic agreement between the U.S. and Canada puts restrictions on large-scale diversions of water.

In the last 10 years, communities like Waukesha and corporations like Foxconn have made bids for exceptions to the contract. And a "first" happened this year, according to Peter Annin, the director of the Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation at Northland College.

“In 2018, we had the first legal challenge ever filed in a water diversion case. Whereas it was an appeal with Waukesha, but it didn’t get to the level of a formal in court legal appeal,” Annin says. “But we’re there with Foxconn. We have attorney’s being consulted on Pleasant Prairie."

He says all major pieces of environmental legislation — Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act — have been refined through litigation. “And that’s what we may be seeing the beginnings of here, with the Great Lakes Compact,” he adds.

Annin believes agreements like the compact are important. “We’re going to see water rich regions of the world, like the North American Great Lakes, continue to come under increased pressure because they are such bountiful water areas on the planet,” he explains.

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