The Great Lakes are comprised of Michigan, Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario and, together, contain 20 percent of the world’s surface fresh water and 90 percent of North America’s surface fresh water. To protect and properly manage this precious resource, the eight states bordering the Great Lakes (Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania); and two Canadian provinces (Ontario and Quebec) developed and signed the Great Lakes Compact with the United States.
The Compact bans the diversion of Great Lakes water outside the Great Lakes Basin. Two very limited and strictly regulated exceptions have been made to this compact with regards to water diversion and include:
- A community that is located partially in the Great Lakes basin may apply for a diversion.
- A community that is located within a county that is partially in the basin, may apply for a diversion.
In addition, this Compact binds these states and provinces to properly manage the Great Lakes watershed which includes the St. Lawrence Seaway.
The Compact was enacted on December 8, 2008 following consent by the United States Congress. It was necessary for Congress to take part in the process as, by law, only the federal government can make a legally binding agreement with another sovereign government. At the same time, the Great Lakes-Ste. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council was formed to manage and protect this resource.