Report claims Great Lakes states acting slowly on water law

June 23, 2011

A new report out Thursday claims the Great Lakes states are moving slowly to meet required deadlines under a federal law that governs water use.

That compact prohibits water from being diverted outside the Great Lakes basin except for a few exceptions. It also protects the Great Lakes ecosystem and conserves water. It’s part of an agreement between the eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces.

By December 2010, the compact required the states to develop state water conservation and efficiency goals, and commit to promote water conservation measures. The report “Protecting a Shared Future” by the Natural Resources Defense Council claims no state “fully met the milestones,” although Wisconsin was closest.

“We look at performance to date where simply filing reports by the states have been ignored, completely treated as if it’s irrelevant,” said Henry Henderson, director of the NRDC’s Midwest program in advance of the report’s release.

“I don’t see the sense of urgency gripping the community,” he said. “I think that’s what happens with natural resources. People think they’re just going to be there. The fact that they are exhaustible and can be deeply harmed by lazy, inattentive exploitation is an illusion that affects our shared future.”

But Daniel Injerd, who acts as head of the Compact Council as Illinois Governor Quinn’s delegate, said a number of states have passed laws and started water management programs. Most have begun water conservation programs.

“While certainly you can examine these and say are they enough or could they do more, to me, the big accomplishment is we’re starting,” Injerd said leading up to the release of the report. “Even in these hard economic times, every jurisdiction is making some progress. To me at the end of the day, that’s what is important and what will help protect the resource.”

The NRDC report noted it was “important to underscore the difficulty in fully assessing each state’s progress.” The report goes on to give the states recommendations.