Celebrating the Compact’s 10 Years of Protecting the Great Lakes

October 3, 2018--Today marks the tenth anniversary of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact being signed into law by former President George W. Bush on October 3, 2008. 


The Governors of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin agreed upon the Compact to provide a comprehensive management framework for sustainable water use and resource protection.  It also ensured that Great Lakes water would be available for those who most depend on it long into the future. 

 "Many believed that getting the Compact signed into law was impossible, however, countless individuals, groups, and lawmakers were committed to protecting the future of the Great Lakes,” said David Naftzger, Executive Director of the Conference of Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers (GSGP). “The Great Lakes are healthier, and the entire region benefits as a result of this Compact.”

There were nearly five years of negotiations, including 100 days of face-to-face negotiations, before the States, Ontario, and Québec reached an agreement.  The Compact was then ratified by the legislatures in each of the eight Great Lakes States and passed by both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate.  More than 1700 legislators (95 percent) voted in favor of it before it was signed by the President--all in under three years.  Throughout, more than 60 public meetings were held and approximately 13,000 comments received. 

“The Compact was not about parties or politics, but states and provinces across two countries coming together to say we have a common interest in protecting the Great Lakes today and in the future,” Michigan Governor and GSGP Chair Rick Snyder said.“During the past decade, the Compact has created a process for states to set requirements in order to improve the Great Lakes.  It has grown relationships across our region, shaped more economic opportunities, and served as a strong protection against threats to our waters.”

Actions resulting from the Compact

  • Economic development has been fostered through sustainable use and responsible management of the region’s waters.
  • New water diversions outside of the region have been completely banned. For near-Basin communities, there are limited opportunities for diversions when strict requirements are met.   
  • All of the States and Provinces now have in place programs to regulate water withdrawals from the Basin.
  • Clear, predictable decision-making procedures and standards have been put in place with ongoing improvements underway.
  • Basin-wide water conservation goals and objectives have been adopted, and each of the States and Provinces have enacted programs to meet regional goals.
  • All of the States and Provinces are reporting on water usage across the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence so that we have a better sense of how water is being used.
  • Two cumulative impact assessments have been performed to determine the impacts of regional water usage. These are the first of their kind for a water body of this size anywhere in the world.

Pennsylvania has a long-standing commitment to the sustainable use and preservation of the waters of the Great Lakes,” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said.  “As we celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the signing of the Great Lakes Compact, it is important that we recognize the historical significance of the accord and the continuing need to protect these waters for generations yet to come.

“The Great Lakes Compact encourages continued economic growth – a key to taking Indiana to the next level,” said Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb. “The sustainable use of waters plays a critical role in preserving existing businesses and ensuring the creation of new jobs.”

By States and Provinces working together, the Compact was also a catalyst for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  This initiative has received more than $2 billion in new federal resources to protect and restore the Great Lakes. 

The Great Lakes regional economy generates more than $6 trillion annually – approximately 30 percent of our nation’s gross domestic product.  The five Great Lakes contain 95 percent of North America’s freshwater and approximately 20 percent – one-fifth – of the world’s surface freshwater.  More than 40 million Americans and Canadians depend on the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Basin for their water.