Freshwater Supplies and the Great Lakes

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Milwaukee-Racene-Waukesha Metro Area

recent article in The Atlantic magazine brings attention to an increasing problem: who has access to the freshwater of the Great Lakes? Because the Great Lakes border both the United States and Canada, both countries are invested in access to the freshwater from the lakes. It is used for irrigation, as well as for drinking water.

After seven years of debate and negotiation, Canadian provinces and the states that border the Great Lakes agreed to a compact called  the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. Congress approved it and President George W. Bush signed it into law in 2008.

Now, the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, Wisconsin, is becoming a test case for the compact. According to the article, “A massive proposal by Waukesha to ‘borrow’ up to 8.4 million gallons of Lake Michigan water every day (or 3 billion gallons every year) is weeks away from an up-or-down vote by the governors of the Great Lakes states.” Time will tell how the freshwater in the  Great Lakes will be fairly distributed by the provinces and states that border them.


Boats at South Shore Park on Lake Michigan, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Map Credit: David Benbennick
License: Pubic Domain

Image Credit: Mark J. Heffron
License: Creative  Commons 3.0

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