Friday, President Bush signed the Great Lakes Compact – an agreement whose completion ended a decade of work to protect the Great Lakes waters from being diverted to other locations.
The Great Lakes – our natural wonder right here in the Midwest – contain 20% of the world’s fresh surface water. Compact supporters have long feared that arid regions such as the rapidly growing Sun Belt would target the lakes as a source of much-needed water supplies – a real possibility as population trends show a marked shift to the southwest as well as other warmer climates.
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The deal was negotiated by the governors and ratified by the legislatures in all eight affected states – New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. In addition to our states, the provinces of Ontario and Quebec adopted similar provisions.
Although the Accord protects against large-scale diversions by pipeline or ship , environmentalists fear a loop-hole that allows Great Lakes water to be bottled and sold in containers no larger than 5.7 gallons will be exploited to increase diversion in lesser quantities.
The United Nations estimates that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population will lack ready access to clean, fresh water.