The Future of water use in the Great Lakes Basin considering the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact
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The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact was recently passed in order to protect the Great Lakes ecosystem and halt diversions outside the basin. While this is a positive step toward water conservation and protection in its focus on protecting the basin’s ecosystem, the Compact does not clearly state a limit on use of water from the Great Lakes. Instead, it allows for flexibility in future applications of the compact with acknowledgment that current situations can change. All eight states bordering the Great Lakes must create a water conservation plan, report consumptive use, and agree before any new diversion outside the basin is created. However, increasing stresses placed on freshwater supplies by rapid development, increased irrigation, and climate change may increase the likelihood that Great Lake states would agree to additional diversions. In order to predict if the Compact will adequately stabilize water levels in the Great Lakes, this research compares a range of annual inflow levels to consumptive use within the basin and diversions outside the basin per state or province. Current rates are sustainable, but when applied to future scenarios the Compact could allow for more water to leave the basin than enter it, causing deterioration of the lakes themselves. The results of this research could be used to justify the need for stricter local and national water conservation regulations and less development on arid land in the western United States.
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