Great Lakes Compact

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The Great Lakes Compact signed into law in 2008, is a legal agreement between Eight U.S. States, that seeks to manage how the water from the Great Lakes' Basin is used. The states involved are Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The Council of Great Lakes Governors was largely responsible for enabling the creation of this type of legislation. Furthermore, this compact is built off of previous legislation such as the Great Lakes Charter of 1985, as well as including cooperation with the Governments of two Canadian provinces, Ontario, and Quebec[1].The primary aim of the compact is to reinforce conservation and to protect the freshwater source through setting standards around decision making in regards to water use and overall depletion.

The Great Lakes Compact is one of the truly great bipartisan legislative achievements of the past decade, given the gridlocked political climate that has governed the time-frame. The executive leadership in the states belonging to the agreement are not all the same as when the compact was originally signed. This, along with the fact that there is a new Presidential Administration altogether cast uncertainties on the future attention and support this compact will receive.



The need for Government action in the Great Lakes Basin was recognized after observations of excessive water usage from the Great Lakes. Minnesota was the first state to have their Governor sign the compact, when Tim Pawlenty signed the compact on February 20, 2007. Michigan was the last state to have their Governor sign the compact, when Jennifer Granholm signed on behalf of the state of Michigan, on July 9, 2008. The State of Wisconsin joined the set of Governors to have signed the agreement, when on May 27, 2008 Governor Jim Doyle signed the Compact[2]. The Great Lakes Compact legislation was first introduced by U.S. Senator Carl Levin from Michigan on July 23, 2008. The legislation passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate, and with mostly bipartisan agreement in the U.S. House of Representatives. The compact was signed by President George W. Bush at the end of his term on October 3, 2008 and became Federal Law, on December 8, 2008[3].This compact was one of the last major pieces of environmental legislation the Bush Administration was able to get it's name on before the Obama Administration took office in January 2009.

Current Usage

Prior to the Compact, there was little done to combat the issue of water diversion and withdrawal from the Great Lakes. States like Michigan had to set up scientific methods to study the amount of water being withdrawn from the Lakes so that lawmakers could draft a viable solution[4].The Compact is set in place to protect the Great Lakes from excessive depletion, as the Lakes hold 90% of the United States' freshwater. Under this agreement, diversion of water from the Great Lakes for municipal use is limited. Without effective Governmental legislation behind efforts such as this, it is difficult to wage any meaningful environmental change, especially in regards to large bodies of water such as the Great Lakes.

Future Outlook

As is the case with many environmentally centered legislation, the future of The Great Lakes Compact is uncertain and for the most part is in the hands of Governmental institutions with the responsibility of upholding it's original intent. When the agreement was working it's way through the U.S. House and Senate, it garnished nearly unanimous bipartisan support. The political climate in America has changed over the course of the last ten years, and an entire administration has come and gone.

The Obama Administration was rather friendly to the environmental movement and it's core mission, at reducing negative anthropogenic impact on the planet[5]. Due to the lack of a profound amount of freshwater sources in the United States, the Great Lakes serve as a reservoir that must be protected at all costs if modern society is to ensure the safety and quality of it's drinking water and municipal water. The newly elected administration does not have as such a clear cut vision on environmental policy that the previous administration had. The Trump Administration has no doubt, by their public statements, made it clear that they are going to be less willing to cooperate with environmental demands when they get in the way of economic development projects.

All of this leads to the massive amount of uncertainty swirling around the state of this compact in the years ahead. Hopefully the Federal Government continues to take the steps necessary to prevent this agreement from falling apart or to prevent State Governments from not holding up their end of the bargain. With productive inter-state cooperation and an overlooking by the Federal Government, there is no reason why the United States should not have the capacity to keep the Great Lakes as fresh as they can be, given that they are a vital natural resource to society in the modern world.


  1. "Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact Implementation". Council of Great Lakes Governors. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
  2. "IMPLEMENTATION", Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Water Resources Regional Body, Retrieved September 21, 2009.
  3. "Legislative record for S.J. Res 45". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2009-04-09
  4. 10. Branham, Mary . "Michigan Assesses Impact of Water Withdrawal." 2009. Accessed May 2017.
  5. "Living Planet Report." Summer 2016. Accessed May 2017

Article History

bohlea11 (2017-05-09)
  • Originated by: Eric Bohl
  • Major Contributors: Eric Bohl